So far, though, both sides are painting a good picture for the other guy. A Republican source points out that a local state Senate seat flipped from the GOP to the Democrats last year, and that this is a more Dem-leaning district than NY-20 was.
A Democratic source, meanwhile, gives the opposite message. "The thing to keep in mind is that unlike the special election in New York's 20th District, Sen. Gillibrand had a really strong campaign structure in place -- Democrats haven't really played in New York's 23rd District in years." The source added: "We'd have a chance at winning this seat, though it certainly still favors a Republican candidate."
It's too soon to have any potential candidate names out there, and the date of the special election itself is not yet known. First of all, Gov. David Paterson (D) has some leeway for setting the date after a vacancy occurs -- and of course the vacancy hasn't occurred yet, and probably won't until McHugh is confirmed and then resigns his seat.
Late Update: A Democratic source in Albany says that the best potential Dem candidate, state Sen. Darrel Aubertine -- the man who picked up that state Senate seat mentioned above -- could possibly face some pressure to not run for Congress. If he were to win, this would place his state Senate seat up for grabs in a chamber that the Dems now only control by a 32-30 margin.
Late Late Update: Aubertine spokesman Drew Mangione just told me: "It's too early to comment, but the Senator is committed to his work in the New York state Senate."