While the heavily Democrat district is normally not contested by Republicans in any meaningful way, ever since incumbent Congressman Anthony Weiner resigned from the seat a few months ago, a confluence of events and circumstance made this a seat a perfect opportunity for a Republican pick up. Between dissatisfaction with the economy, increasing dissatisfaction with the President and a heavily populated Jewish vote disgruntled by President Obama’s treatment of Israel, this special election became less of a referendum on either Republican Bob Turner and Democrat David Weprin and more of a protest vote designed to show the President Obama how unhappy voters are with him.
This forced the traditionally reliable voters of this Democrat district to ignore their usual ideological dislike of Republican policies, thereby eliminating their habit of voting for whoever Democrats run. But it is important to realize that this is not necessarily a referendum on President Obama regarding 2012. With over 14 months before the presidential election and without a Republican presidential nominee to contrast President Obama with, the core traditional base of the President’s Democrat vote is willing to send him a message. But once the presidential campaign heats up, the people who currently comprise CD-9 will still have strong Democrat tendencies that will force many to coalesce around the President’s reelection and the Democrat ticket.
But what this special election does show to be a very real problem for the President is the incredibly large number of Jewish voters who have real problems with the President and even such Democrat agenda items as gay marriage. In addition to being heavily democratic, CD-9 is also heavily Jewish and Democrat David Weprin is an orthodox Jew. Yet his natural constituency in the district still opposed his election as a result of President Obama. Going in to the election, polls showed that the issue of Israel was a significant one for CD-9 voters and the same polls showed that voters were quite dissatisfied with the President’s policies regarding Israel.
Another sign of just how focused the electorate was on the national atmosphere created by President Obama was demonstrated by the issues which dominated the election. Neither candidate campaigned on any of the many local issues. For instance, after Hurricane Irene passed New York, it left a great deal of damage, especially along the Atlantic Ocean beaches in the Queens area of the district. Yet despite the timeliness of the campaign and the storm, it was not once mentioned.
So the electorate was indeed focused on President Obama. Still though, this was just a snapshot of the moment. As mentioned previously, it still may not be a long lasting referendum on the President. However; there is no denying that the President has a great deal of work to do to ensure that the traditionally democratic Jewish vote across the nation, does not vote the same way in the presidential election that they did in New York’s special election.
Meanwhile, the addition of Bob Turner to the existing Republican majority in the House of Representatives will not make any difference in national politics in the sense of being any kind of shift in the balance of power. Furthermore,this congressional seat may not exists after 2012. New York state’s loss of population in the most recent census means that the state legislature will have to erase two congressional districts from its ranks. Ever since Anthony Weiner resigned, CD-9 became an obvious district to eliminate and is likely to remain so when redistricting is completed.
Meanwhile, what this Republican special election victory in the unlikely Democrat stronghold of New York City does do is provide a significant psychological boost for the G.O.P. and a profound sense of dread for Democrats. This defeat will begin to put a great deal of pressure on the President by congressional Democrats who will be counting on him to have some coattails in 2012 that can help to just keep incumbents in office but to also elect enough new Democrats to take back control of the House and to maintain control of the Senate. After the drubbing Democrats because of President Obama in the 2010 midterm election, this 2011 special election serves as good reason for Democrats to be fearful of a 2012 election cycle with President Obama at the top of their ticket.