We really saw this trend start with Scott Browns Senate win in MA when he took the seat of Ted Kennedy after Kennedy passed away. Many saw that election as the first repudiation of Obama and his agenda. And, of course, it took place in a very blue state. The trend continued with the 2010 election when the GOP took a number of seats in blue districts. Yesterday the trend continued with upstart Republican Bob Turner took NY-9 in a special election to replace the disgraced Anthony Wiener.
But as usual, the White House is sure it’s a special case that has little to do with the President or the President’s popularity (or lack there of).
Obama won the district, which spans southern Brooklyn and Queens, by 11 percentage points in 2008. His approval rating there is now 33 percent.
The president’s top political aides concede that if his numbers had been “sturdier,” it might have had a slightly positive effect for Weprin. That means no Obama-voiced robocalls to most Democrats in the district—just text messages targeted at younger voters. More-popular Democrats, like Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Bill Clinton, are lending their voices to the get-out-the-vote effort.
Democratic strategists studying the district say Turner’s strength comes from independents and traditionally Democratic voters in Orthodox Jewish communities, a demographic displaying an enormous amount of interest in voting.
So, what about those cross-over “traditionally Democratic voters”? This is a seat that has been held by Democrats for 88 years.
88 years, folks. How is it that any GOP candidate has a chance in a district that handed Obama an 11 % win? And what does it say about the state of the Democrats if Bill Clinton can’t even rally the troops? And that’s the real problem:
In contrast, secular Democrats in the district, including secular Jews, display the sort of apathy associated with a demoralized political party. Weprin has been hemorrhaging support from all traditional Democratic constituencies.
So is that because of Weprin, Obama or both?
The Republican Jewish Committee and independent Democratic allies like former New York Mayor Ed Koch have called the race a referendum on President Obama’s policies in general, and specifically his orientation toward Israel. They say a Turner victory would send a message that they don’t want to be the president’s rubber stamp. But Congress, controlled by Republicans, is no more popular in the district than Obama. And when polled, conservative Jews don’t list Israel among their top concerns. But of all voters who do say Israel is at the forefront of their minds, a mega-majority supports Turner.
Still, Obama always has had trouble with Orthodox Jews, and two Obama advisers said they understand that at least some of the frustration may be exercised in the form of a vote against the Democratic candidate. They concede that the election might bring to the fore how difficult it will be for Obama to win back the trust of independents—no matter what their faith. This New York contest would seem to have implications beyond Brooklyn and Queens.
Last two sentences are key. Obama lost independents with his health care debacle, er, law. With a supermajority against the bill, he and Congress rammed it through anyway. And then Scott Brown won his election as the first indication of independent ire. And so on. NY-9 is an indicator of a serious problem for Democrats and the president. Weprin may not have been the strongest candidate, but then for 88 years that’s really not mattered in NY-9. It has, until now, reliably “rubber stamped” the Democrat in every election.
Why is now different?
Mostly because of Obama – no matter how the White House tries to spin it.