A few hours from now, people will start counting the ballots in the special election to replace Congressman Anthony Weiner as Congressman of NY’s 9th Congressional district. All signs point to a victory for Republican businessman Bob Turner in this heavily Democratic district. If Turner should win, or even if it’s very close, this will be seen as a repudiation of President Obama and his policies.
This is a district that hasn’t seen a GOP victory in 90 years, but beginning with an endorsement from former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, the campaign ceased being a contest between Bob Turner and David Weprin and became a referendum on the president. And the approach has worked as recent polls have reported a Turner lead outside the margin of error.
“If Turner wins on Tuesday, it will be largely due to the incredible unpopularity of Barack Obama dragging his party down in the district,” wrote Tom Jensen of the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling, one of the firms whose poll had Turner in the lead.
The PPP poll found that Democratic candidate David Weprin has a net positive approval rating, but the president’s job approval rating had slipped to 31 percent in the district, which he won with 55 percent in 2008.
“If Obama’s approval in the district was even 40 percent Weprin would almost definitely be headed to Congress,” Jensen wrote. “He’s getting dragged down by something bigger than himself.”
Apparently this race is scaring Democrats from entering other congressional races against GOP incumbents in 2012. One A Democratic strategist said he was wary of encouraging candidates to run next year.
“I’m warning my clients — ‘Don’t run in 2012.’ I don’t want to see good candidates lose by 12 to 15 points because of the president,” said the strategist.
National Democratic party organizations have raced to help out Weprin in recent days, in order to prevent this big loss for the president. The DCCC spend a half- million dollars over the last few days of the campaign, and the Soros funded group the House Majority PAC added an additional $100,000.
The race has pointed out another weakness in Obama’s traditional support, the Jewish Vote. Since the Koch endorsement which included a scathing review of Obama’s policy toward Israel, the Democrat Weprin’s lead among Jewish voters, about one-third of likely district voters, fell from 21 points to six points.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a prominent Jewish congressman, said the Jewish vote is a concern for his party, using traditional anti-Semitic stereotyping to explain the switch. He Basically said all those Jews care about is protecting their money.
“I think Jewish voters will be Democratic and be for Obama in 2012, especially if you get a Republican candidate like [Texas] Gov. [Rick] Perry,” he said. “But there’s no question the Jewish community is much more bipartisan than it has been in previous years. There are Jews who are trending toward the Republican Party, some of it because of their misunderstanding of Obama’s policies in the Middle East, and some of it, quite frankly, for economic reasons. They feel they want to protect their wealth, which is why a lot of well-off voters vote for Republicans.”
…..Former Rep. Tom Davis (Va.), another ex-chairman of the NRCC, said the race does have national implications. “Each district has its components, but this is a liberal Democratic district, don’t kid yourself,” he said. “We know the president’s numbers are in the tank and [a Republican win] would be a very physical manifestation of that.”
After all this is not just any district, this is NY City, part of the “People’s Socialist Republic of NY State.”
A senior Democratic strategist agreed that Obama’s numbers have been worrying down-ticket Democrats, and that a New York special-election loss would heighten their concerns.
“The one thing that’s going to resonate in the echo chamber is the president is really pulling down people’s numbers,” he said. “Democrats are going to start getting a little nervous.”
Perhaps losing this traditionally Democratic party district is the change we can all believe in.