"We were so excited about that special congressional election in upstate New York," said Gail Collins in The New York Times. Republicans hoped the vote to replace Kirsten Gillibrand—who was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat—would show that "the tide had turned on Obamamania." Democrats figured a win for their candidate would show the opposite. With the race a virtual tie, "nobody has bragging rights."

Don't be so sure, said Jim Geraghty in National Review. The Democrat, Scott Murphy, was looking good until his poll numbers fell the weekend before the vote—right after Democrats began using President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in mailers and other advertisements. The vote doesn't prove that "Obama's popularity has been seriously dented"—but it does show it "is not necessarily transferable to your average Democrat."

Republicans should take no comfort from this dead heat, said Josh Kraushaar and Charles Mahtesian in Politico. They made this race a referendum on Obama, and the campaign started with Republican James Tedisco having a double-digit polling lead in a heavily Republican, small-town district. Murphy's gains—even if Tedisco emerges the ultimate winner—made it hard to argue that voters "wanted to brush back the new administration."