Republicans dealt two major blows to President Obama last night with victories in two special elections, in New York and Nevada. Both races captured national attention and revealed weaknesses for President Obama in 2012.
In New York, Republican Bob Turner defeated Democrat David Weprin in the race to fill the seat left vacant by pro-abortion, disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner. Despite voting en masse for Obama and Weiner in previous election cycles, the district with its vibrant Jewish community, turned against Weprin citing opposition to Democratic policy on Israel. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, endorsed Republican Bob Turner noting, “My support for Mr. Turner is intended to send a message to President Obama that he cannot throw Israel under the bus with impunity.”
It is widely known that Obama is currently facing tough times in regard to his popularity with independent voters. But in New York, a core group of his Democratic base, Jewish voters, also appear to be pulling away. In several key states like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, which have larger Jewish populations, Obama may be vulnerable.
The race also delved into social issues with Democrat David Weprin vowing that protection of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding would be a top priority if elected. NARAL Pro-Choice New York was involved in the race on his behalf. Turner, on the other hand, is pro-life and will become the first Republican to represent the district since the 1920’s.
While the New York race is certainly more sensational, having resulted in the first place due to Congressional impropriety, the race in Nevada should worry Democrats nationwide heading into 2012. Without the unusual circumstances of the New York race, the Republican victory in Nevada is even more demonstrative of national trends.
In Nevada, pro-life Republican Mark Amodei trounced pro-abortion Democrat Kate Marshall by a margin of 22 points (58%-36%). Amodei was supported by National Right to Life PAC and Nevada Right to Life PAC while Marshall touted the endorsement of EMILY’s List.
Amodei versus Marshall represents a generic Republican versus a generic Democrat in a region hit hard by the economic downturn. Obama virtually tied McCain in the district in 2008, losing by just 88 votes. Amodei’s impressive showing seriously calls into question Obama’s ability to win in key swing areas. It also puts a damper on Democratic plans to retake the US House.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer tried to downplay the races’ significance but admitted, “I think every election reflects on the person in charge, but do I think it is an overall statement on the president alone? No. Do I think it will be interpreted as being a statement on Obama? That’s probably correct.”
Pro-abortion Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA) reportedly told attendees at a fundraiser on Monday that if Democrats lost the New York special election, all members of Congress “could get sent home.”