This summer, Democrat Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress in disgrace. Nude pictures Weiner accidentally tweeted caused the Congressman to squirm and lie for over a week until the evidence and teary confessions consumed him and he quit.
Now, with a special election for New York’s 9th district on deck today, Weiner’s district is on the cusp of turning red giving the Republicans an upset and a congressional pick up. The 9th District in New York has been in the hands of a Democrat for 88 years, but now Democratic candidate Assemblyman Dave Weprin is trailing Republican Bob Turner a retired cable company executive, 47 percent-41 percent in the latest Public Policy Poll.
There are a lot of factors at play here, which are leading to a possible Republican victory. Weiner’s district has a substantial Jewish population, about one third of the electorate, so there is credible speculation that President Obama’s low approval ratings on the issue of Israel are responsible for his unpopularity in New York 9. The beltway thinking is that Jewish voters who normally vote for Democrats but who are unhappy with President Obama are supporting the Republican in this race.
Unfortunately, this battle has also turned into Islamophobic fear mongering. Weprin who last summer spoke out in support of the Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero, has been attacked by Turner for supporting a golden dome “Ground Zero Mosque” built near where the towers fell. The incendiary flyer was sent out as the nation paid respects to all those lost on 9/11. The flyer is meant to appeal to Jewish voters in the district traditionally part of the Democratic base and exploit xenophobic fears that may exist.
That discontent in the Democratic base coupled with President Obama’s sinking nationwide approval because of the ongoing economic crisis is showing a Democratic vulnerability leading into 2012.
The Public Policy Poll cites that in 2010, Democrats could make the argument that ”[l]ast year a lot of the races Democrats lost were because their voters didn’t show up and the electorate was far more conservative than for a presidential year. When you lose that way you can say, well, our voters will come back out in 2012 and we’ll be fine. But there is no enthusiasm gap here. Obama voters are showing up in the same numbers they did in 2008. But only 65 percent of them are voting Democratic. That’s a really big cause for concern.”
While this analysis may be true there are other factors at play here. Something else besides Anthony Weiner’s resignation happened this summer. New York State passed the marriage equality bill. While the country overall is moving in a progressive direction and supporting marriage equality in larger numbers than ever, there are certainly a large number of New Yorkers who do not support the new law.
More importantly, Democrats in the New York State Senate who opposed marriage equality are making robocalls for the Republican Bob Turner in the race and attacking Assemblyman Dave Weprin’s support for the measure as reason to vote against him today.
WATCH ‘THE LAST WORD’ COVERAGE OF THE FIGHT FOR WEINER’S SEAT:
The Chairman of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins attacked Weprin saying that, ”[t]he only apparent reason for the race being so close is David Weprin’s vote for same-sex marriage. This is a district that previously voted for Anthony Weiner over Bob Turner by 60 percent. This race would not be close if Weprin had not voted for counterfeit marriage.”
What is being played up as an electorate unhappy with President Obama and the dismal state of the economy may actually be an electorate living by the famous motto coined by former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill “all politics is local.”
Weiner’s nude picture scandal damaged the Democratic brand in New York’s 9th district. That scandal lead to this special election where Republicans have been able to capitalize off of a still lagging economy and a President Obama with weak approval ratings.
This coupled with anti-Islamic sentiment remaining from last summer’s Islamic cultural center controversy and this summer’s marriage equality triumph lead to a unpredictable electorate who are clearly dissatisfied with Democrats for myriad reasons and are willing to vote in a Republican for the first time since 1923.