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Our take on NY-20

From NBC's Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro
Here's our piece on MSNBC.com about Tuesday's special election in New York...

When it comes to political races, 2008 will certainly go down as a year to remember.

It featured more than 50 individual Democratic presidential primary contests; it produced dozens of competitive Senate and House races (one of which is still undecided); and it concluded with a general election between Barack Obama and John McCain that captivated America.

Now, just four months later, the first truly competitive contest of 2009 is already upon us. On Tuesday, in upstate New York, Democrat Scott Murphy faces off against Republican Jim Tedisco in the special election to fill the seat in the 20th Congressional District vacated by Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who was appointed to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate.

While political analysts usually caution not to read too much into special elections, this race seems to take up where 2008 left off. It has turned into a battle over President Obama's economic stimulus. It also has become the first real test for embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

And, looking forward to next year's midterms, Republicans have touted it as an early barometer of their political health in the post-Bush era — especially since it takes place in a region, the Northeast, where the GOP has found little recent success.

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