Democrats have gone into panic mode in the New York race to replace disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner. Little-known Republican businessman Bob Turner has surged into a polling lead over Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin ahead of Tuesday's special election. No Republican has represented the heavily Democratic NY-09 district (comprising parts of Brooklyn and Queens) since 1923, and spooked Democrats are now pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into negative ads against Turner in a bid to hang onto the district. Still, some Democratic insiders fret that President Obama's declining popularity is driving voters to the Republican Turner, who has never held political office, and turning the Democrat into an underdog. Is Obama really to blame?
Yes. This is a clear rebuke of Obama: Turner is "riding the anti-politician wave," says Stephen Meister in the New York Post. And Weprin is a career politician "who does the bidding of the Democratic machine." It's Obama who runs that machine, and the president's "radically anti-Israel stance" and abysmal performance on the economy are turning off the once reliably Democratic Jewish voters who make up a third of NY-09.
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No. Weprin's wounds are largely self-inflicted: Weprin "has been hurt by his lack of charisma," say Thomas Kaplan and Kate Taylor in The New York Times, and his own "weak campaign." He's made plenty of costly gaffes — such as backing out of a debate, and guessing that the national debt was just $4 trillion. (It's actually north of $14 trillion.) Weprin, an Orthodox Jew, has also been hurt by his support of same-sex marriage, which may be driving Jewish voters into Turner's camp.
Regardless, this is bad for Democrats: If Weprin loses, he and Obama will share the blame, says David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo. NY-09 isn't one of New York City's "hardcore Democratic havens" — while Democrats have a 3-to-1 advantage in registered voters, Obama only got 55 percent of the vote there in 2008. But there's no denying this race is a bellwether: "A loss here would paint a very bleak picture for Democrats going into 2012."
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