There’s some very bad news for Democrats in next Tuesday’s New York special election — Friday’s independent Siena Poll has Republican Bob Turner beating Democrat David Weprin by six points.
In a sign of the perhaps desperate times, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee just poured half a million dollars into ads into the Queens-based 9th district, and the Democrat-backed House Majority PAC is also buying airtime.
But 79 percent of voters say they are “absolutely certain” they know who they will support and another 17 percent are “fairly certain,” meaning it might be too late to change many minds.
According to the poll, Turner wins 90 percent of Republicans and has a 38-point lead with independents. Weprin wins only 63 percent of Democrats in the normally overwhelmingly Democratic district.
Turner’s lead is larger in the small southern Brooklyn portion of the district than in the larger Queens-based part.
Dissatisfaction with Democratic leadership in Washington is almost certainly a factor in the special House race. Only 43 percent of people in the district have a favorable view of President Obama, compared to the 75 percent who have a favorable view of New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Fifty-four percent have an unfavorable view of the president.
House Speaker John Boehner only gets a 30 percent favorable rating, but his unfavorability is lower than Obama’s at 45 percent. Boehner is less well-known and therefore likely less of a drag on his party’s nominee.
At the same time, the struggling economy isn’t the only factor in the race.
Democrat Weprin has made multiple gaffes; strategists say that he was picked more for his willingness to sacrifice the House seat, which is at stake in redistricting and might not exit in the 2012 elections, than for his political prowess.
The seat is also not quite as blue as it seems.
While Democrats have a three-to-one registration edge in the 9th, the district is actually the second most conservative in New York City. It was very supportive of President Bill Clinton in the ‘90s and of Al Gore in 2000, but in the past two presidential elections the Democratic candidate got only about 55 percent of the vote.
The 9th went from being listed as D+14 in the 2006 Cook Political Report to D+5 in 2010. Only in the South and in Appalachia did any other districts swing so red in the past two races.
Democratic consultants say that the Orthodox Jewish vote, which makes up a significant population in the 9th, is unpredictable and could explain the district’s tilt in recent races.
“It’s an older district, it’s more conservative, very heavily Jewish, one of the few places in New York City that has a Republican Club that’s active,” said strategist Joe Mercurio. “The Republicans have been mounting a very vigorous effort.”
Former Democratic Mayor Ed Koch was an ardent supporter of Al Gore, which may have boosted Gore’s support in this area. In this race, Koch is supporting Turner — saying he wants to send Obama a message on Israel.
The fact that Weprin himself is an Orthodox Jew does not mean he has that constituency in the bag.
“Often Jewish voters will vote for a non-Jew because they dont suffer from religionist guilt in their support of Israel,” consultant Scott Levenson said.
The race isn’t over — Democrats still have an advantage here in turnout due to their strong union support. But what was considered a non-race a few months ago is now down to the wire.
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