The Democratic pedigree of the district is astounding and the statistics say it all. The district, currently a bastion of (mostly Orthodox) Jews and Catholics nestled in Queens and Brooklyn, has been held by Democrats since 1923. It has produced such notables as Chuck Schumer (current senator from New York) and Geraldine Ferraro (vice presidential candidate for Walter Mondale). Only two Republicans have held the seat since 1874 (for a total of six years) and over the entire history of the United States, Republicans have represented the district for approximately nine years.
Yet even if the statistics are insufficient to convince naysayers of the impact, local Democrats concede the results are a clear rebuke of Obama. For instance, Democratic analyst Hank Sheinkopf said:
The Democrats said no to Obama, no to his economic plan, and no to his position on Israel.... It’s major smack at Democrats, a definite rejection of President Obama and it’s a warning that says if Catholics in the most blue of blue states can vote for the Republican they can do it in other states as well and the Democrats may have real trouble.But while Sheinkopf is correct to focus on the Catholic vote, Obama should also worry about the second major demographic that makes up NY-09: the Jewish vote. New York Democratic leader Ed Koch outwardly supported Turner's campaign as a message against Obama's approach to the Middle East. Many Jews, a large Democratic staple, have become increasingly frustrated with Obama's caustic policies towards Israel and have turned against the administration. This vote is a major indicator of that trend.
Dan Senor, in the Wall Street Journal, details a laundry lists of administration affronts to Israel, but sums up the meaning of the vote rather succinctly.
A Public Policy Poll taken days before the election found a plurality of voters saying that Israel was "very important" in determining their votes. Among those voters, Republican candidate Robert Turner was winning by a 71-22 margin. Only 22% of Jewish voters approved of President Obama's handling of Israel.This trend, should it continue, does not bode well for the president and will certainly aid the Republicans come 2012. Obama is getting hit hard in the supposedly safe bastions. His mismanagement of the economy, poor foreign policy, and general inability to manage the political climate in Washington, have alienated many of his traditional voters.
And yet despite this wealth of evidence, many Democrats have tried to disavow any linkages to the administration's policy. This is foolish. Democrats can choose to ignore the lesson, but the interpretation of the special election as a rebuke against Obama stands rather solidly. Even Turner acknowledged that there was little daylight between his and former opponent's, Democrat David Weprin, positions, particularly regarding Israel. The voters, he argued, were not so much voting for him as sending a message of discontent to Washington. Hopefully, for Obama's sake and the country's, the message does not fall on deaf ears.