Republican political newbie Bob Turner delivered a stunning blow to Democrats in a special election Tuesday, handily beating Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin and putting New York's 9th Congressional District into GOP hands for the first time since 1923. (With 84 percent of the precincts counted early Wednesday, Turner led 54 percent to 46 percent.) Turner, who will take the congressional seat left vacant when Democrat Anthony Weiner quit over a sexting scandal in June, said his victory in the heavily Democratic district "will resound" in 2012. "We've lit one candle today and it'll be a bonfire," Turner said, as quoted by the New York Daily News. Does the "humiliating" upset in NY-09 really mean that Obama and the Democrats are in for a drubbing next year?
Yes. Turner's victory is a clear rebuke: "Take that, President Obama!" says the New York Post in an editorial. Jewish voters — who cast a third of NY-09's ballots — usually tilt heavily to the Democrats, but they're so furious over Obama's Israel policy that they spurned a candidate, Weprin, who is not only a Democrat but an Orthodox Jew. New York Democrats are also clearly sick of Obama's feeble response to the unemployment crisis, and that "could spell bad news" next year.
"Yoo hoo, Mr. President"
And Democrats can't take their base for granted in 2012: The Democrats' "New York loss was no fluke," says David Weigel at Slate. "It was a test of two wedge issues" — Obama's insistence on a Palestinian state based on Israel's 1967 borders, and gay marriage (40 Orthodox rabbis signed a letter saying that voting for Weprin was "forbidden according to Torah law" due to the Democrat's support for the state's same-sex marriage law). Democrats now know that much of their base, "weary of the recession" and skeptical of the party's leaders, is "ready to be wedged."
"Chose people and human sacrifices"
Hold on. A single special election has little meaning: Taken alone, the NY-09 vote does not "foretell the future," says Mark S. Mellman at The Hill. What matters is which party wins the majority of all the special elections that take place between national votes. Historically, whichever party wins on that count gains an average of six seats in the next general election for every seat it netted in the past two years' special elections. Going into Tuesday, the Democrats were up by one seat — Kathy Hochul's in New York — so NY-09 just evens the score.
"Special elections' magic math"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Pope Francis' American problem
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Are there dogs in heaven? Let's hope not.
- Hey, bosses: Stop giving bonuses to your employees
- 10 things you need to know today: December 19, 2014
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
Subscribe to the Week