Republican Bob Turner's victory in the special election for Anthony Weiner's New York congressional seat is being interpreted across the political spectrum as a possible rebuke to Democrats, particularly President Barack Obama.
Turner's opponent, Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin, failed to generate much excitement throughout the contest. Turner instantly seized on the results as a reflection of popular discontent with Obama's economic policies and as a portent of things to come, declaring that We've lit one candle today and there's going to be a bonfire pretty soon.
We have been told this is a referendum, Turner said in a victory speech. And we're ready to say, 'Mr. President, we are on the wrong track.'
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, shrugged off suggestions that the race had broader implications, pointing to the unique demographics of a district that has a disproportionately heavy concentration of Orthodox Jews. Conservative Jewish voters may have been swayed by Weprin's vote to legalize same-sex marriage, or by a call from former New York City mayor Ed Koch to express anger at Obama's policies towards Israel by voting for Turner.
In this district, there is a large number of people who went to the polls tonight who didn't support the president to begin with and don't support Democrats - and it's nothing more than that, Wasserman Schultz told The New York Times.
But some voters exiting the polls expressed a disillusionment with Obama that seemed to enforce Turner's contention.
I am a registered Democrat, I have always been a registered Democrat, I come from a family of Democrats - and I hate to say this, I voted Republican, Linda Goldberg, 61, told the Times. I need to send a message to the president that he's not doing a very good job. Our economy is horrible. People are scared.
Democratic donors and strategists also registered a sharp sense of disappointment and anxiety in a Tuesday afternoon conference call reported by Politico, with a person who was on the call describing people as betrayed, disappointed, furious, disgusted, hopeless.
House Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told Politico that Obama would shoulder some of the blame for Weprin's loss regardless of why voters cast their ballots as they did.
I think every election reflects on the person in charge, but do I think it is an overall statement on the president alone? No, said Hoyer. Do I think it will be interpreted as being a statement on Obama? That's probably correct.