Spinning A Special Election

Republican Bob Turner prevailed over Democrat David Weprin in yesterday’s special election to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of scandal-plagued Congressman Anthony Weiner.  The result, in a district in the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs of New York City, takes what had been a safe Democratic seat for decades and turns it over to the Republicans.

It’s only one seat of 435 in the House of Representatives, of course, and simply adds to an already existing Republican majority in that chamber.  The question, however, is whether the outcome reflects broader shifts in the views of American voters — and already the spin game seeking to influence the answer to that question has begun.  Republicans say the vote is a referendum on President Obama and his economic policies and note that Turner urged voters to send a message to the President.  Democrats say the race was decided by unique local issues — like a large presence of conservative Orthodox Jews who are angry with President Obama’s position on Israel — and add that Weprin was just an inept candidate.  As a result, they argue, the result is no reflection whatsoever on voters’ opinions of President Obama.

The spin game is an effort to control the message to the gullible schmucks like us, the great unwashed who make up the general electorate.  The real group to watch is the Democrats now in Congress, who are fully capable of separating spin from reality.  They may look at the results of NY-9 and see a race where national Democratic committees spent more than $500,000 in a futile effort to save a supposedly safe seat seat and where all of the get-out-the-vote machinery was activated — and the Democrat still lost.  If those Democrats currently serving see President Obama as an albatross who will lead them and their party to disaster in November 2012, they may stop following that lead, no matter what congressional Democratic leaders like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi say.

Professional politicians tend to be very protective of their own political skins.  If we see more Democrats who are up for election in 2012 peeling away from President Obama in the weeks and months to come — in connection with the President’s current jobs bill, for example — their actions will send a more profound message than the silly political spin game ever could.

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The GOP Targets Weiner’s World

You’ll remember former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned from the House of Representatives in disgrace after his curious on-line conduct and later misrepresentations about it were disclosed to the American public.  His sordid tale dominated the airwaves in June.

Tomorrow a special election will be held to replace Weiner.  His New York City district formerly was viewed as safely Democratic — it covers parts of Brooklyn and Queens, and was the political springboard for current New York Senator Chuck Schumer — but now polls indicate that the Republican candidate may actually win.  Such a result would send shock waves through the Democratic Party and might cause more Democrats to begin questioning President Obama and his leadership of the party.

The old saying is that all politics is local, and local issues have been important in this race.  The district includes a large Jewish population, and Republican Bob Turner has urged them to send a message to President Obama about his policies toward Israel.  The polling also indicates, however, that President Obama’s general unpopularity may be a drag on the Democratic candidate, David Weprin.  The President carried the district by 11 percentage points in 2008, but a recent poll indicates that he now is viewed unfavorably by 54 percent of respondents, including 38 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents.

You normally can’t make too much out of a special election to replace a politician who resigned amidst scandal, but tomorrow’s special election could be an exception to that rule.  If a safe Democratic seat flips to the Republicans, it may be a sign of greater voter unrest, and larger political waves, at work in America.