And finally, whatever impact the Medicare debate is having in this race, it’s just one data point, and not necessarily evidence that the issue will tilt the 2012 campaign toward Democrats. Tom Curry of, rounding up some of the relevant research, finds that when a series of special elections break the same way, they can have predictive value. In the wake of Hochul’s strong showing, that means upcoming special elections in California and Nevada may warrant some extra attention as politics-watchers try to get a sense of which way the political winds are blowing, and which issues matter most to voters. Until then, it’s worth remembering Silver’s note of caution: “reading too much into the results of any one of them is dangerous.”

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.