TEDISCO CONCEDES, STEELE SWEATS?…. It took a little longer than expected, but Republican Jim Tedisco conceded the special election in New York’s 20th today, and Rep.-Elect Scott Murphy (D) is headed for Capitol Hill.

Murphy takes over in the seat from its previous Democratic occupant, Kirsten Gillibrand, whose appointment to the United States Senate set up the special election for this marginal district.

The election was on March 31, three and a half weeks ago, but it took this long to get a winner because it was so close and involved a lengthy process of counting and litigation of absentee ballots. Still not all of the ballots have been reported in, but it became very clear over the last few days that there was really no way Tedisco could have pulled it off.

Murphy’s victory, while expected as the vote tallies came in, is nevertheless something of an upset win for Democrats. New York’s 20th is a Republican district — as recently as 2006, GOP voter registrations in the district outnumbered Democratic registrations by 15 points — and Republicans invested heavily to win this race. For that matter, Tedisco is a well-known leader in the state legislature, while Murphy only moved to the district three years ago.

It was, at least on paper, a race Republicans should have won. They didn’t.

Which leads us to the next question: just how painful is this defeat for RNC Chairman Michael Steele? He not only poured a lot of money into this race, Steele also pointed to New York’s 20th as a race that would help turn things around for the Republican Party.

Back in January, Steele boasted, “That win will send a powerful signal to the rest of the country … that our game is not up,”

That seemed like safe bravado in January, when Tedisco looked like a sure thing. But “that win” has become “that loss.” Does that mean, by Steele’s reasoning, that a powerful signal has been sent to the rest of the country that the Republican Party’s game is up?

There were some rumors in February that a GOP defeat in this special election would put Michael Steele’s job in jeopardy. Something to keep an eye on.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.