New York Republicans moved even before the polls had closed to prevent certification of the winner of the hotly contested New York special congressional election for a traditionally “safe” Republican seat.

Officially, Republican nominee Jane Corwin’s campaign has indicated that it obtained an order from the New York Supreme Court preventing a certification of a winner in the special election in New York’s 26th District in order to prepare for a recount. But the order was obtained before anyone knew whether the result would be close enough to justify a recount.

So what’s the real reason? GOP strategists hope to stir up uncertainty and confusion.

Anything to muddy the waters.

Why? Because no matter what the eventual winner is, the results will show that they have lost the Medicare debate.

Corwin went into this race as the all-but-certain winner.

DC Democrats barely paid attention to the candidacy of Kathy Hochul, who had the party’s endorsement in a district that in 2008 backed John McCain when the rest of the state was going for Barack Obama. If anything, the Working Families Party, which also backed Hochul, was working harder for her election than the Democrats in Washington.

But then House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, advanced his plan to end Medicare as we know it—steering money away from providing healthcare and into the accounts of private for-profit insurers, which happen to contribute mightily to GOP campaign coffers. Hochul recognized an issue and she grabbed it, focusing her campaign on the need to preserve Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the rest of the safety net.

Hochul crept ahead in the polls and, with half the votes counted Tuesday, she was leading by a 48-42 margin.

Republicans will talk about the closeness of the vote.

They will talk about the votes—roughly 8 percent in the early counting—that went to third-party candidate Jack Davis, who made a hybrid appeal for Tea Party voters and critics of free-trade deals. But all the polls showed that Davis was drawing votes from both sides, and in the end he may well have taken as much from Hochul as he did from Corwin.

They can talk about other issues, including an airline safety controversy that resonated in a region that witnessed a deadly commuter flight crash not long ago.

But the bottom line has been clear from the day that Hochul made the defense of Medicare her prime issue.

This race has been all about Ryan’s plan. That’s why it is close. That’s why everyone is paying attention. And that’s why Republicans are scared.

As the results came in, Eddie Vale, communications director of national the “Protect Your Care” campaign, mused: “Evidently Medicare wasn’t just a winning issue in NY-26—it came thundering off the top rope with a flying elbow worthy of Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage.”

“Although the polls have now closed, because of the court order obtained by the Corwin campaign there may not be a winner certified tonight but there already was a clear loser—anyone who supports the Republican budget that ends Medicare. The only reason this race in a red district, that John McCain won, was even competitive was because of the rejection—especially by seniors—of the Republican budget that ends Medicare,” explained Vale. “This is not just our take, it is demonstrated by Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty refusing to clearly say if they will support a plan that even Newt Gingrich called ‘radical’ and ‘right-wing social engineering.’ It is why a growing number of Republican Senators will be voting against it this week. The message the people in NY-26 sent tonight was loud and clear—hands off our Medicare.”