One way or the other, the spin will start in a New York minute. But first, someone has to win the special election today in New York’s 9th district.
Two recent polls showed Republican Bob Turner poised to upset Democrat David Weprin in the seat formerly held by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D). If Turner wins today, there will be plenty of blame spun throughout the Democratic Party. But with both campaigns expecting a turnout of about 20 percent, this election, more than most, will hinge on who shows up to vote.
Democrats emphasize that, despite the Siena College and Public Policy Polling surveys that show their candidate down by 6 points, a robust get-out-the-vote effort could keep the Queens- and Brooklyn-based district on the Democratic side of the ledger. The district has a significant organized labor presence, which is expected to be out in force.
The Weprin campaign said it has 1,000 volunteers going door to door and making phone calls. Democrats have a more than 3-1 party registration advantage in the district, though many registered Democrats — especially in the Brooklyn portion of the district — lean more conservative. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the Brooklyn portion of the 9th with 57 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election.
Even some Republicans, despite the polls, don’t see a Turner victory as likely.
“I look at the numbers and the money the Dems are putting into it and the poll operation that they’re going to have,” a long-time New York City Republican operative said. “I just don’t see how it happens.”
Other Republicans conceded that while they expect a win, it will be a much tighter margin of victory than 6 points.
Roll Call rates the race as a Tossup.
National Democrats cling to the GOTV effort. “The Weprin campaign is continuing their aggressive Get-Out-The-Vote effort right up until the polls close,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Josh Schwerin said in a statement.
An automated call from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) went out to the district Monday. A call from President Bill Clinton, encouraging voters to cast their ballot for Weprin, is scheduled for today. “He’ll stand up for the middle class, he’ll support a good program to put Americans back to work and he’ll oppose the tea party plan to destroy Medicare,” Clinton said of Weprin in the pre-recorded call.
Turner also rolled out one of his highest-profile endorsements Monday, holding an event with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R). An automated call from another high-profile supporter, former Mayor Ed Koch (D), was released Monday by Turner’s campaign.
If Turner wins today’s election and takes the seat once held by the late Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D), blame for the loss will be widely distributed around the Democratic Party. But the lion’s share of responsibility, Democrats told Roll Call, will land at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“The person who should be most upset if Weprin loses the race is Barack Obama,” a senior aide to a New York Democratic Member said. The aide noted that the race had become nationalized, which diminished the importance of local variables. “The Obama factor cannot be denied in New York 9.”
Both Republicans and Democrats insist the key explanation for a Turner victory — or even a tight Weprin win — would be deep dissatisfaction among voters with the president.
In an automated telephone poll conducted by the Democratic Public Policy Polling firm through Sunday, the president pulled a paltry 31 percent job approval rating, with 56 percent of likely voters in the district disapproving of his job performance.
But not all of the responsibility for a special election loss can be placed with any one person, even the president.
The DCCC, chaired by New York Rep. Steve Israel, also had its missteps in the short special election campaign.
“It didn’t help that the [DCCC] spent $500,000 on an ad in the name of advancing Weprin and, really, all it did was help to embolden Turner,” the senior Congressional aide said. “That was not money well-spent.”
The original version of the committee’s television advertisement released online Thursday contained animated images of a plane banking toward the New York City skyline. After the imagery’s uncomfortable dissonance with Sunday’s 9/11 anniversary was reported in the press, the DCCC pulled the ad and replaced it with a tweaked version.
But the new version without the plane banking toward the skyline didn’t make it into rotation for at least one local morning show Friday. Amidst news reports on the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, viewers watching New York City’s Fox affiliate saw the original ad, a station spokeswoman confirmed to Roll Call.
Rep. Joe Crowley, the Queens County Democratic Party chairman, helped select David Weprin as the Democratic nominee for the special. But despite Weprin being widely seen as a lackluster candidate, Democrats in the Big Apple said Crowley would dodge much of the blame in the event of a Weprin loss.
New York City Democratic strategist Basil Smikle, who still believes Weprin will squeak by with a win, said in the event Turner turns the seat Republican, the responsibility “would really be attributed to the Democrats nationally and the president.”
Smikle said that if Weprin loses, he doesn’t “think [Crowley] is unscathed” but that national trends would be seen as paramount.
Something Crowley will have to contend with no matter the result of today’s election is redistricting. New York lost two seats during reapportionment. The conventional wisdom is a Democratic-held 9th is likely to be eliminated in redistricting. But if the GOP takes the seat, Republicans, who run the state Senate, might try to save it.
“If Turner wins, I think the Republicans have every reason to maintain a second foothold in New York City,” said a Democrat with knowledge of the state’s redistricting process. Freshman Rep. Michael Grimm (R) represents Staten Island and a few neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
Regardless of what happens later with redistricting, one GOP consultant said his party should keep its glee in check if it pulls out a win in Queens.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the electorate is mad at both parties,” longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone said. “Turner has the added advantage of being an outsider and a nonpolitician. But the Republicans shouldn’t take total comfort in a win because voters are tired of both parties.”