Republican wins in New York Democratic stronghold

NEW YORK Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:13pm EDT

In this file photo Anthony Weiner announces that he will resign from the House of Representatives during a news conference in Brooklyn, New York, June 16, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

In this file photo Anthony Weiner announces that he will resign from the House of Representatives during a news conference in Brooklyn, New York, June 16, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Republican upset in a historically Democratic congressional district of New York City rattled Democrats and a besieged President Barack Obama going into November 2012 elections.

"We are not going to sugar coat it, this was a tough loss," the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wrote in an open memo on Wednesday, a day after Republican Bob Turner scored an 8-point victory over Democrat David Weprin.

Turner, a retired media executive, won 54 percent of the vote to Weprin's 46 percent, handing the seat to Republicans for the first time since the 1920s in a heavily Jewish district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1.

Weprin, a state assemblymen, conceded on Wednesday in a loss Republicans called evidence of voter discontent with the Democratic president.

"The people are not happy with the Democratic Party in our district or in Washington. That includes the president," said voter Tyler Zuckerman, 60, a retiree. "It's about jobs or lack thereof. It's about the president not sticking to his fan base, so they won't stick with him."

Democrats in the district straddling parts of Brooklyn and Queens were embarrassed by the former congressmen there, Anthony Weiner, who resigned amid scandal in June for sending lewd pictures of himself to women on the Internet.

Tuesday's special election took place in the media glare of New York City and underscored Obama's potential weakness with Jewish voters, who will play a crucial role in important swing states such as Florida in 2012.

Prominent Democrats including former Mayor Ed Koch and orthodox Jewish state Assemblyman Dov Hikind crossed party lines to protest Obama's stance on Israel, a signal that conservative Jews who traditionally back Democrats can switch parties.

"New Yorkers put Washington Democrats on notice that voters are losing confidence in a president whose policies assault job-creators and affront Israel," said Pete Session, chairman of the House Republicans campaign committee.

Some critics say Obama has failed to sufficiently support Israel and object to his call for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to use the Jewish state's pre-1967 borders as a starting point.

"I know fully well that this is about Obama. It is bigger than the district," said Jerome Richards, 55, a corrections officer. "People are turning on him, like Mayor Koch, so its going to be hard next year."

IT'S THE ECONOMY

U.S. unemployment of 9.1 percent also is weighing on Obama, whose approval rating remains below 50 percent.

"The economy is the main thing keeping Obama down. No one really cares about what he promised in 2008 or if he came through when they don't have a job," said Eli Port, 57, who voted for Weprin.

Turner's triumph, and a Republican victory in another special House election -- in Nevada -- boosted the Republican majority over Democrats in the House to 242-192.

Democrats sought to downplay the loss, saying the district has been trending Republican in recent years and contending it would have no bearing on 2012, when Obama will seek a second term against a Republican to be determined in a series of primary elections that begin in January.

Obama could also take solace in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday showing his approval rating got a small lift after he unveiled a jobs plan last week, keeping him ahead of all potential Republican rivals in the 2012 election.

The percentage of Americans who view Obama's job performance favorably edged up to 47 percent in the poll conducted September 8-12, up from 45 percent in August.

One expert cautioned against reading too much into the special election results.

"Sure, this election sent a message to Democrats that they are in trouble, but they already knew that," said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia who tracks congressional races. "What does this election say about 2012? Absolutely nothing. Fourteen months is a long times in politics. A lot can happen."

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro in Washington and Paula Rogo in New York; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (25)
shelbyanne wrote:
he guy refused to resign, was pressured out of office, then showed up on election day and supported the dem running to replace him on national tv. I don’t think the repubs taking the seat had much to do with portending the outcome of a presidential race 14 months away.
One thing we learn’t in the WI recalls. It doesn’t matter much if you do not have an electable candidate. Tea party republicans are not electable on the national level. People simply do not elect fanatics as president. And tea party will venomously oppose a non tea party republican…curse of the loud mouths.

Sep 14, 2011 3:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Velmaa1 wrote:
I am so shocked that the people of Queens and Brooklyn have decided to put a man with only a message of cuts to medicare, medicaid and social security and tax breaks for the wealthy, corporations, etc. in office to replace Weiner, who at least always fought for the people of this district. I knew we were in trouble when I saw a table with Tea party literature and pictures of President Obama depicted as Hitler, in Fresh Meadows, in front of the post office. I hope those who voted for this man who cares nothing about the people of this district or this country are satisfied. He states it loud and clear. He wants to cut federal programs, like medicare, medicaid and social security and wants to protect the tax breaks and loopholes of the wealthy, the corporations and the oil companies. This means that we will have to work hard to make certain that in 2012, we get out to vote and get the obstructionists out of office. Vote out the obstructionists who stand in the way of job creation and helping the economy. These people have no plan except the plans that got us into this economic mess. I hope everyone wakes up and understands the importance of what has happened here. I plan to call Turner’s office everyday and demand that he do what is right for ALL of the people in this district, meaning vote for the American Jobs Act NOW!!

Sep 14, 2011 3:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
czilla85 wrote:
@Velma, and I suppose it was perfectly okay when democrats/liberals had W. Bush dressed up like Hitler? I love the hypocrisy.
@Shelbyanne, really?! I thought all the first few presidents themselves were fanatics, by the term you are trying to label them. Hey, think about this, if our founding fathers were liberal for their day, just how far off the deep end does modern day liberals, especially Obama, fall? (Politically speaking.) Chew on that for a while.

Sep 14, 2011 4:41am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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