Republican Bob Turner and New York voters delivered a sharp blow to Democrats and President Barack Obama on Tuesday, as Turner won a special House election in New York in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one.
A retired broadcasting executive, Turner became the first Republican to win New York's ninth congressional district since 1920, revealing that many voters are unhappy with Obama three years into his term of office and with high unemployment and the slow-growth U.S. economy.
The district encompasses Queens and parts of Brooklyn in New York, and it's where Obama, a Democrat, beat John McCain by 11 percentage points in the 2008 general election.
We've been asked by the people of this district to send a message to Washington and I hope they hear it loud and clear, Turner told supporters. We're ready to say, 'Mr. President, we are on the wrong track.'
Because Democrats have held the New York House seat for four years and a Republican hasn't won it since 1920, Turner's victory over Democrat David Weprin is being viewed by Republicans and many political analysts as a rebuke to Obama in a presidential election season.
Here are five reasons Turner beat Weprin:
1)The first is obvious -- it's the economy, stupid. That's why Obama just sent a $447 billion jobs and economic recovery bill to Congress, hoping to turn the tide of America's nine percent unemployment and slow-growth economy. History shows it'll be difficult for Obama to get re-elected with the economy in such bad shape, and that factor weighed heavily in Turner's favor.
A Siena Poll showed late last week that Obama is approved by just 43 percent of the district's voters right now, while 54 percent said they disapproved of Obama. That's in a district where Obama easily defeated McCain in 2008, and a reason voters rejected Weprin, a Democrat.
2) Turner pledges to slash the federal budget. Turner entered the race because he said he was fed up with overspending in Washington, and called throughout the campaign for deep budget cuts. As Congress battled in late August over raising the debt ceiling and slashing the federal budget, Turner's political star shone brightly with voters who think America's $14.5 trillion deficit is trouble.
3) Weprin's social and global political views didn't land with conservative Democrats. Weprin is an orthodox Jew. Turner is a Catholic. Weprin backed plans to build a mosque and Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan, a stance that was apparently widely unpopular with many voters. Also, Weprin was hurt with some conservative Democrats over views on gay marriage.
Furthermore, Turner was endorsed by the likes of Democrat Ed Koch, the firmer New York mayor, who said he was sending a message to Obama on policies toward Israel with the support. Thus, ironically, Weprin's views on Israel cost him votes with Jewish voters.
3) Turner is the antipolitician politician. If there's one thing we've learned since the mid-term elections in America last year, it's that the counter political culture gets a strong nod from voters these days. That's one reason for the Tea Party's surge, and it's one reason Turner ran. Weprin is from a well-connected political family. He previously ran for New York comptroller, but lost.
Yet voters viewed him as the traditional politician while Turner, who said he entered the House special election race effectively because America needed outside, experienced business leadership like his, was clearly the non-political political candidate. Consider only that Weprin raised $500,000 to Turner's $200,000 -- yet despite the financial advantage and have far more Democrats in the district that Republicans, the dark horse candidate pulled off the victory.
4) Turner is anti-Obama. Across the board virtually, Turner pledged during the campaign to push back on Obama's policies if election. Obama's popularity ratings are low, and the president has seen support eroded from traditionally strong support groups, including many Democratic union members who think his policies are getting America into trouble.
By going directly, after Obama's policies, Turner scored big with voters. We've been asked by the people of this district to send a message to Washington and I hope they hear it laud and clear, Turner told supporters after the victory. We're ready to say, 'Mr. President, we are on the wrong track.'
5) The Anthony Weiner Democratic hangover. Weiner, a Democrat, resigned June 16 after two weeks of trying to stave off pressure to step aside after a photo of a man's crotch surfaced on his Twitter feed. Weiner initially denied the photo was of him, but later admitted it was. He quit, citing the embarrassment he caused.
But some in the district viewed Weprin is too close in similarity to Weiner, who left in disgrace. Perhaps that wasn't fair, but it was undoubtedly true.