Jim Tedisco has taken the lead in the NY-20 special election … without a single ballot being recounted.  The correction of tabulation errors shifted what had been a 65-vote lead for Democrat Scott Murphy to a 12-vote lead for the Republican looking to take one House seat out of the Democratic column:

Now it’s Tedisco by 12!

As voting machines are re-canvassed, Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco has picked up 37 votes, evaporating Democrat Scott Murphy’s lead in the race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in Congress, according to county election officials who are conducting a recanvass.

This means that the race is really still a dead heat, just as it was on Wednesday morning.  With over 6,000 absentee ballots unopened, the only thing one can say about a 12-vote gap is that it’s better to be ahead than behind at this stage, but not by much.

What about the absentee ballots, though?  Jen Rubin looks at the numbers and sees promise for Tedisco:

According to absentee-ballot numbers I received last night: in Warren, Republicans returned 569 of 764 ballots while Democrats returned only 316 of 437, with 113 of 205 “other” ballots returned. I suppose the Democrat could pick up votes, but he’d have to overcome a tremendous differential in party identification of the returned absentee ballots — 569 vs. 316, or 57% vs. 31%. … Likewise in Washington, where the Democrats’ projection is a pick up of 70 votes, Tedisco has an advantage of 315 vs. 187 in returned absentee ballots (62% vs. 37%).  …

Columbia is a more plausible source of votes for Murphy, who enjoys an advantage of 472 to 242 returned ballots over Republicans, and who won that county 56-44%. But aside from a tiny margin in Duchess County, Columbia is the only county where Democrats enjoy an advantage in the percentage of returned absentees or the total absentee ballots sent out.

But the real kicker is in Saratoga. The latest figures there were 1,731 ballots returned, 922 of which were Republican and 502 Democratic (53% vs. 29%), with the remainder “other .” That is a very big  chunk of the absentees, about one third. Tedisco won that county by a 54-46% margin.

A generation ago, Republicans had a clear advantage in absentee ballots.  Since then, Democrats have specifically organized for absentee voting and had taken the presumed edge.  These numbers indicate that the Tedisco campaign, somewhat maligned for blowing a double-digit lead in this race, may have outhustled Democrats on absentee balloting.  If Jen’s numbers hold up, Tedisco has a pretty clear advantage on party response, and in this race, that will probably prove decisive.

Jazz Shaw notes, though, that the district hasn’t exactly broken along party lines for a few election cycles:

I’ve done some radio segments with Jennifer and can tell you that she’s a smart, thoughtful political analyst. The numbers she quotes still don’t give us a definitive answer, but are of interest anyway. The uncertainty factor comes from the fact that not all of those “Republican” ballots will necessarily go for Tedisco. The district as a whole still has a 70,000 registration advantage for Republicans, but Kirsten Gillibrand carried it twice and President Obama carried it as well. They haven’t been voting straight party line for a few years.

Jazz does think that party identification played a bigger part in this election, and he watched this race very carefully.  The absentee ballot numbers certainly show that Tedisco’s campaign did something right, and I’d predict that party identification influences absentee ballots to a greater degree than precinct voting.  We’ll soon see.