Will Health Care Be Metro Republicans' October Demise?

The new Q poll shows a tightening in the race for New York City Hall -- from a 22-point spread in June to just 10 points in the survey released this morning. And while a lot has happened in New York politics in the last month, the mayoral race has lacked an earthshaking, lead-halving event.

It's the semantic developments, instead.

In June, the Quinnipiac poll identified Mayor Mike Bloomberg as "Bloomberg the independent;" in July it was Bloomberg "running as both a Republican and independent." In June, the Independent led his Democratic opponent, 54 to 32 percent. Today, the Republican (who's an independent, too) leads 47-to-37.

Bloomberg's campaign writes the poll off as simple wordplay, unimportant as people know he's nonpartisan.... True enough. Running on the Republican line hasn't sunk Bloomberg before, even in a terrible year for the GOP like 2005.

Though 2005 was the year where Republicans defined themselves by their ineptitude: Iraq, Katrina, Social Security, Harriet Miers.... 2009 may be the year where Republicans define themselves by their interference: health care.

Because it's one thing to watch the winners of an election screw things up. It's another thing entirely to watch the losers of an election screw things up for the winner. Especially when that winner remains extremely popular in places you expect to win in the fall.

See, now that the health care debate will bleed into October, Washington Republicans are going to be filling the nightly news with supercharged partisan rhetoric. At the same time, their fellow Republicans will be in the final stages of wooing heavily Democratic constituencies in New York and New Jersey..... Yeah, good luck with that.

It's impossible to know just how much July's rancorous health care debate affected the new Q poll. The most telling indicator of how painful a highly partisan October atmosphere could be is in Bloomberg's support among independents. Identified as a Republican, it dropped off by 10 percent.

Republicans hammering Obama in Washington think they're driving independent voters out of Democrats' arms, but in liberal-leaning places like New York and New Jersey, their divisiveness makes voters less likely to stray from home. Bloomberg has the money and reputation to insulate himself from such an effect. Other Republicans don't.

Less like an 'October Surprise,' it'll be a new shock to the system every day in a campaign's most fragile period -- an 'October Demise,' if you will.