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.
One of the things we constantly hear from the left is the public is already fed up with the obstructionist House and that the possibility exists Democrats may be able to reverse 2010 and take it back in 2012.
Well then explain NY-9, the congressional seat in a very blue district in New York city. Disgraced Democrat Anthony Weiner resigned and what should have been an almost rubber stamp Democrat win has suddenly shifted in favor of the Republican challenger.
Well part of it is those troublesome independents again. They refuse to listen to the left’s version of conventional wisdom. But there’s also a good amount of crossover voting:
Turner’s winning in a heavily Democratic district for two reasons: a huge lead with independents and a large amount of crossover support. He’s ahead by 32 points at 58-26 with voters unaffiliated with either major party. And he’s winning 29% of the Democratic vote, holding Weprin under 60% with voters of his own party, while losing just 10% of Republican partisans.
We’ve been documenting the flight of independents from the Obama (and Democratic) agenda for a couple years now. Nothing really new there. But in a district as heavily Democratic as NY-9, it takes more than capturing the independent vote if you’re a Republican. You have to get some pretty significant crossover votes as well.
So what’s causing this defection by some Democrats there? Well, I’ve documented any number of stories saying that the bloom is off the Obama rose. We had Richard Cohen in the Hamptons visiting with NYC’s liberal elite and finding very little if any support for President Obama. We have Democrat Pete DeFazio saying the “enthusiasm” for Obama is gone. Is NY-9 a referendum on the President?
If Turner wins on Tuesday it will be largely due to the incredible unpopularity of Barack Obama dragging his party down in the district. Obama won 55% there in 2008 but now has a staggeringly bad 31% approval rating, with 56% of voters disapproving of him. It’s a given that Republicans don’t like him but more shocking are his 16% approval rating with independents and the fact that he’s below 50% even with Democrats at 46% approving and 38% disapproving.
That’s got to be part of it. Turner is also a strong candidate and Weprin, well, not so much. But still, this is a reliably Democratic district, so that to has to be remembered. Given a strong opinion of national leadership, it should be no real chore to overcome a GOP candidate there. But that’s not the apparent case. Here’s the warning sign:
One final note on the poll and what perhaps should concern Democrats most of all. 55% of voters in the district report having voted for Obama in 2008, which is the actual percentage of the vote he got in the district. Last year a lot of the races Democrats lost were because their voters didn’t show up and the electorate was far more conservative than for a Presidential year. When you lose that way you can say, well, our voters will come back out in 2012 and we’ll be fine. But there is no enthusiasm gap here. Obama voters are showing up in the same numbers they did in 2008. But only 65% of them are voting Democratic. That’s a really big cause for concern.
It is indeed a big cause for concern if that’s a pattern that repeats across the nation. White it is possible that the Democrat may end up winning in NY-9 because crossover trend hasn’t yet solidified, the indicators contained in the PPP poll show contain some very disturbing news for Democrats, win or not.