There’s no question the political winds are dead into the face of congressional Republicans these days.

Even with a hard shift to the left by President Obama and his Democrat cohorts, Americans remain willing to give the party of FDR more latitude and flexibility to pursue its liberal agenda, pending any massive lurches that throw the entire country off track.

Despite Treasury Secretary Geithner’s best attempts to do just that, public opinion of the administration remains high. Polls out just this week show most Americans don’t blame Obama for the financial mess, alluding to the argument that many are anxious to see how he will get us out of this mess.

I mention these realities to remind conservatives of the political lens they need to peer through when examining the special election occurring in the 20th House district of New York state. There, well-liked Republican Jim Tedisco fought a tough, uphill battle against a well-financed Democrat, Scott Murphy.

The deck was certainly stacked against the Republicans; former Gov. Eliot Spitzer carried the district by 21 points in 2006, along with Sens. Charles Schumer (2004) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (2006). Yes, Obama’s coattails still run long. But in spite of all this, Tedisco has a good shot at winning this race, which would be a tremendous shot in the arm for the party, specifically Michael Steele. Yes, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) is the field general, and a fine job he did. But we know who would have received the brunt of the criticism had Tedisco been routed.

That’s why I have to tip my cap to the RNC chairman and, more importantly, his operation. This is what Republicans do best — make a compelling case, then mobilize supporters (not just the base!) to cast their support.

The party apparatus must remain strong in states and at local levels if Republicans are to have any hopes of rebuilding their organization. Elections aren’t won and lost by what shows up on C-SPAN. They’re fought inch by inch on the ground. Steele understands that tactic, and his statement this morning that he will commit resources to any legal fights that may ensue was both timely and wise.

The NY-20 race is far from decided, but in this instance, points should go on the board for effort, message discipline, party coordination and mobilization. The next big test for Steele & Co. comes in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey. You can bet Mike Steele will be jockeying hard for wins there and get the party ship of state back on course.

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