Democrats are downright gleeful over their upset victory in the Buffalo-area congressional race, but they're also misguided about what happened, writes Karl Rove. The common narrative is that Kathy Hochul clobbered Jane Corwin by linking her to Paul Ryan's Medicare overhaul and that Democrats now have a lethal weapon to wield in the 2012 elections. Nope, writes Rove in the Wall Street Journal. Hochul won because self-proclaimed Tea Party candidate Jack Davis spent millions of his own money on a third-party bid and took 9% of the vote. More to the point, Hochul's Medicare scare tactics did not sway independent voters, says Rove.
Still, Medicare played some role in the race, and Republicans must heed the lessons, he writes. Corwin did not strike back aggressively enough when attacked on the issue. "Next year, Republicans must describe their Medicare reforms plainly, set the record straight vigorously when Democrats demagogue, and go on the attack," he suggests. "Congressional Republicans—especially in the House—need a political war college that schools incumbents and challengers in the best way to explain, defend, and attack on the issue of Medicare reform." They need to be as fluent in Medicare as they were on health reform last year, writes Rove.