Tuesday's GOP victory in the heavily Democratic New York City's 9th Congressional District once held by former Rep. Anthony Weiner touched off a political earthquake and offered a “stunning rebuke” to President Barack Obama as he gears up for his re-election bid in 2012, political pundits and pollsters say.
|Bob Turner's election is described as a "wake-up call that every Democrat is potentially at risk." (AP Photo)
Republican businessman Bob Turner stunned the establishment by defeating David Weprin, a New York state assemblyman who was the handpicked choice of the city's Democratic machine, in a special election fight to fill Weiner's seat.
As of 11 a.m. today, with 459 of 512 precincts counted, The Associated Press reported that Turner had 32,446 votes to Weprin's 27,699, for a 54-46 percent winning advantage. In Brooklyn alone, Turner beat Weprin 67-33 percent.
The defeat had Democratic stalwarts reeling, as the party holds a 3-to-1 advantage over Republicans in the district's voter registrations. President Obama won the district in 2008 handily, beating Sen. John McCain there 55 percent to 44 percent.
Democratic pollster and Fox News commentator Doug Schoen told Newsmax the GOP win in the heart of Democratic liberalism represents a “stunning rebuke” to President Obama and his policies.
“It will be at the very least a wake-up call that every Democrat is potentially at risk,” Schoen tells Newsmax. “And it will be a message to the president that his policies at least for the time being have gotten a resounding rebuke by reliably Democratic voters.”
Turner, a former Multimedia Entertainment television executive, drew broad-based support for his candidacy, gaining endorsements from former Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch.
Koch, one of the city's most popular and influential Democrats, played a pivotal role in the race by embracing Turner.
In late July, Koch urged Democratic voters to back Turner
to send a message to Obama, as well as the two parties.
Koch wrote that the special election should serve as a "a referendum that will allow the voters of this district, the largest Jewish district in the country, to register a protest against the positions of President Barack Obama and the Republican leadership on a number of key issues."
Koch also has been dismayed with Obama's Mideast policies that demonstrated "open hostility to the State of Israel."
National Democratic organizations pulled out all the stops to counter Turner and supporters such as Koch, pouring more than $600,000 into advertising buys in the waning days of the campaign to help Weprin.
The outcome remained in doubt throughout the day Tuesday, however, because of the dominant Democratic political machine in the district, which straddles Queens and Brooklyn.
“The major unions here are going all out, but I think we’ve got the energy on our side,” New York Republican State Committee Chairman Ed Cox told Newsmax earlier in the day.
The strength of Turner’s campaign took Democrats by surprise as he tied Weprin to the unpopular economic policies of President Obama.
The race is sure to be interpreted by some as a bellwether election — as Republican victories in the 2009 gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia heralded a GOP sweep in 2010 congressional elections.
“Republicans will try to make political hay of it, and who can blame them?” Sienna pollster Steve Greenberg tells Newsmax. “They will say, ‘Look, if in New York City Republicans can win a congressional seat held by the Democrats for nearly a century, it shows how in trouble the Democratic Party is.’ So clearly they will play that message out. The Democrats will say it was a perfect storm against them — bad candidate, not the right time, and so forth — and they will try to downplay it.”
Respected national political expert Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said there is no question Turner’s win in a district that cast 55 percent of its ballots for Obama should be considered “a shocker.”
But he cautioned about jumping to any conclusion about the 2012 election.
“We have to wait and see what the conditions are in the fall of 2012,” Sabato tells Newsmax. “This special election result tells us what people are thinking today, but it is no more useful than today's public opinion polls in predicting next fall's elections. In general, people read too much into the results of a special election.”
How long Turner himself is able to enjoy his triumph is another matter. The district is one of those targeted for possible elimination as Albany redistricts in preparation for next year’s elections.
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