In this Aug. 31, 2011 photo, Republican congressional candidate Bob Turner speaks during an interview before participating in a small business forum in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The race to succeed Anthony Weiner in New York's 9th congressional district was never supposed to be close. But the weak national economy, disenchantment with President Barack Obama, and New York-centric clashes over Israel and gay marriage have made the contest surprisingly competitive. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) (Mary Altaffer/AP)

The special election to replace former Rep. Anthony Weiner in New York’s Ninth Congressional District was won by Republican Bob Turner , who defeated Democratic State Assemblyman David Weprin on Tuesday. As the Washington Post’s Paul Kane reported:

With the outcome of his own reelection effort 14 difficult months away, President Obama suffered a sharp rebuke Tuesday when voters in New York elected a conservative Republican to represent a Democratic district that has not been in GOP hands since the 1920s.

Bob Turner, the winner, cast the election as a referendum on Obama’s stewardship of the economy and, in the state’s Ninth Congressional District, which has a large population of Orthodox Jewish voters, the president’s position on Israel.

Turner, 70, a retired cable TV executive who has never served in elective office, defeated Democratic State Assemblyman David Weprin, 55, who has two decades of experience in public service, to fill the seat left vacant when Anthony Weiner (D) resigned in disgrace in June after more than 12 years in the House.

With almost 88 percent of the voted counted, Turner had a lead of 54 percent to Weprin’s 46 percent, according to the Associated Press.

The defeat came as Republicans trounced Democrats in another special House election Tuesday, in northern Nevada, where Republican Mark Amodei led Democrat Kate Marshall, 56 percent to 39 percent almost from the start.

Republicans have painted both the loss in New York and Nevada special elections as a repudiation of President Obama more than local electoral victories. As The Fix’s Rachel Weiner explained:

Republicans sought to turn the race into a referendum on President Obama, tying Weprin to the surprisingly unpopular commander-in-chief at every turn. (Obama’s approval rating was at 43 percent in the district, according to a survey conducted by Siena Research Institute).

Both House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus cast the result as a rebuke of Obama’s new jobs plan.

Obama’s position on Israel became, fairly or not, an effective wedge against Weprin. The Democratic candidate tried to distance himself from Obama’s assertion that Israel should return to its pre-1967 borders but Turner effectively linked that position, deeply unpopular in the district’s Jewish community, to his Democratic rival. Weprin’s support for same-sex marriage also turned off some socially conservative Jewish voters.

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, endorsed Turner and explained that a victory by the Republican would be the best way for Democrats to send a message to the President.

The National Jewish Democratic Council disputed the idea that Israel was a major factor.

“In the end, in this difficult economy, Americans -- including in New York’s Ninth District — are hurting,” said National Jewish Democratic Council President David Harris. “In this atypical district, they’ve reacted atypically.”

The Fix’s Chris Cillizza asked whether Democrats will panic in the face of these electoral defeats, especially given that in the New York district, they held a 3-1 registration advantage over Republicans.

In the wake of Rep.-elect Bob Turner’s (R) upset victory in the special election in New York’s 9th district on Tuesday night, the prevailing question among Democrats will almost certainly be: Is it time to push the panic button?

There’s little debate that the seat that will now occupied by Turner was one Democrats could have and should have won. It had been in Democratic hands for more than eight decades and was carried by President Obama by 11 points in 2008. And Democrats had a three-to-one registration advantage in the district.

Why they didn’t win is a matter of debate, but expect the after-action analysis to focus on the fact that Republicans (and former Democratic New York City mayor Ed Koch, who endorsed Turner) cast the race as a referendum on Obama.

That perception, which national Democratic leaders will do everything they can to beat back today, is a dangerous one for already-skittish Democrats concerned about how the still-staggering economy and the president’s unpopularity will impact them next fall.

It’s compounded by the fact that Democrats came nowhere close to winning another House special election in Nevada on Tuesday. At one point party strategists had seen a path to victory there too.

Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle captured what could wind up as the prevailing sentiment among members during a fundraiser Monday night in Washington.

According to an attendee, Doyle warned that if Democrats lost the New York special election, all members of Congress “could get sent home.”


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