Both sides have gotten off the sidelines and started to spend money in the surprisingly close NY-26 special election between Republican Jane Corwin, Democrat Kathy Hochul and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis. After polls showed the race in the red district within reach for the Democrat, thanks to the third party effort of Davis taking conservative votes and Corwin’s embrace of Medicare privatization, we learned that American Crossroads, Karl Rove’s organization, will drop $650,000 into the race in support of Corwin. Their anonymous donors may have to pay a substantial gift tax on those funds, but it’s a small price to pay to have government policy in their hands. Crossroads will buy $350,000 this week and the rest next week.

The DCCC, which had been reluctant to engage, finally got involved as well yesterday.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is placing a $250,000 TV ad buy in the race for a vacant western New York congressional seat, according to a knowledgeable Democratic official.

It appears that Hochul has already benefited from some coordinated funds on behalf of the DCCC, but this is a more public effort. The NRCC, the Republican companion to the D-Trip, has so far done nothing, outsourcing to Karl Rove’s group instead.

Jack Davis, a multi-millionaire, will have plenty of money available for the end of the race as well. He just lent himself another $500,000.

So with all three candidates financially viable, how will the race shake out? The presence of Davis makes it harder to claim that this is a referendum on Medicare privatization. However, I do think you can say what Josh Kraushaar says, that this has refocused attention on the actual desires of Republicans, which are broadly unpopular.

The inconvenient truth is that issues resonate more in special elections, because they’re the only campaign in town. In November, with other races on the ballot, many voters are hardly familiar with House candidates. But in a contested special election with more politically attuned voters, there’s more reason to pay attention to the nominees’ views [...]

In the district, which has bled jobs for decades, voters want to hear a candidate squarely focused on pocketbook issues. Hochul has connected with them, particularly on seniors’ entitlements and even her fight against costly tolls.

As the late Speaker Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts famously said, “All politics is local.” It’s a quote invoked to downplay the significance of national issues in a congressional campaign. But politics, locally, can also tell us an awful lot about the national environment.

I’m unfamiliar with the toll issue, but I think we can say that running on a platform of ending tax breaks to the rich while protecting Social Security and Medicare is a pretty good strategy that will resonate with the public. Only one of the three candidates in NY-26 is giving that a shot.