While the lootersphere gloats and chides the GOP for overreach after the NY-26 special election, I can't help but remember the NY-23 special election in November 2009. The similarities are pretty uncanny, both have been historically Republican seats that had to have a special election in an off time and because of certain extremely localized issues, there was a third party challenger who helped elect a Democrat in that district.
In the 23rd district, because the GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava (aka Scuzzy Face or Scuzzy Flava) was pretty much a RINO (Republican in Name Only), the Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman was able to get many national personalities to endorse his candidacy. Eventually, Scuzzy Face dropped out of the race and endorsed the Democrat, Bill Owens (kind of proving her RINO status). The final tally was 48.3% for Bill Owens, 46% for Doug Hoffman and 5.7% for Scuzzy Face. It's pretty clear that had it been a standard two party race that the GOP candidate would have won. Unfortunately, the ineptitude of the NY GOP caused this horrible situation to happen. Note there wasn't a primary for the GOP nomination, she was selected in a backroom deal because she was viewed as most "electable" (again showing the brilliance of the NY GOP). I remember at the time, people thought that NY-23 might be a sign of something, but that did not stop Scott Brown from winning in Massachusetts just a few months later and the GOP from having historic gains in 2010 (though NY-23 once again was not one of them because Doug Hoffman ran again and took votes from the GOP candidate in another close election in that district which at one point had only GOP representation since 1873).
The situation with the 26th district is no less unique. Here you had a disgraced GOP Congressman forced to resign for some strange behavior involving pictures of him without a shirt and craigslist. Once again the GOP selected a candidate without a primary (will they please stop doing that!) which pissed off a local Republican military hero who was runner up in the selection process. He then endorsed the third party candidate who was a Democrat running on the Tea Party ticket. Because of this, the Democrat was able to win with 47% of the vote, compared to 43% for the GOP candidate and 9% for the fake Tea Party candidate. Again a unique situation, unless the Democrats want to start a fake Tea Party to take votes away from the Republican and then get other disgruntled Republicans to endorse them.
The lessons are clear for the GOP and do not include backing away from much needed reform. Simply, don't trust the NY GOP to wipe their tuchus' without supervision and try not to piss your own people off too much.