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If Democrats Lose in N.Y., Plenty of Blame to Spread

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Republican Bob Turner greets volunteers at his campaign office in the Howard Beach section of Queens.

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.

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