Acting as if the loss of a special election in New York’s 9th district would be catastrophic, national Democrats are pouring everything they can into winning today’s special election.
I understand their reasoning, of course. I’m simply not sure I agree completely.
State Assemblyman David Weprin (D) is desperately trying to hold on to a seat for Democrats that was left open by the resignation of disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D).
After pooh-poohing the prospects of Republican businessman Bob Turner for weeks and belittling independent and GOP polling showing a tight race (or Turner leading Weprin), national Democrats have finally sounded the alarm, warning that a Turner victory is indeed possible in a district that went solidly for Barack Obama in 2008.
It isn’t just the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that is sounding the alarm. Even the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which often sees itself as much as a competitor to the DCCC as an ally, is asking Democrats to help save Weprin.
Democratic insiders acknowledge that Weprin — a New York Assemblyman selected to be the party’s nominee by Queens Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Joe Crowley — has been an underwhelming candidate, and they readily assign some of the blame for his problems to the candidate.
But make no mistake about it, the albatross around Weprin’s neck is named Obama, and Democrats who value honesty will tell you privately that the president’s 37 percent approval rating in the district is making it difficult for Weprin to win a race that in almost any other time would be a slam dunk, no matter how mediocre a campaign the Democratic nominee ran.
Polling conducted by Siena College shows that jobs and the economy are the top issues of the day, and Republican calls for voters to “send a message” to President Barack Obama clearly have worked far better than Democratic charges that Turner and his party want to eliminate Medicare and Social Security.
Israel is also a very visible issue, and popular former New York Mayor Ed Koch (D) has endorsed Turner because of the former mayor’s unhappiness with Obama’s level of support for Israel.
Orthodox Jews, who constitute a substantial chunk of the district’s electorate, seem particularly resistant to supporting Weprin, who is an observant Jew, against Turner, who is not Jewish but who never misses an opportunity to reiterate his support for Israel and raise doubts about Obama’s support for that country.
Whether the president’s political problems in the district stem primarily from the economy or the perception among observant Jews that he isn’t suitably supportive of Israel is a matter for some debate, but it really doesn’t matter to Weprin right now.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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