The GOP is taking a gleeful victory lap after pulling off a special election upset last night in Anthony Weiner’s former Congressional district, with party officials heralding the win as a referendum on President Obama and a harbinger for 2012.
In a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-1, GOP newcomer Bob Turner sailed past Democrat David Weprin, 54% to 47%, to take control of a House seat that has been in Democrats’ hands since 1922.
But the real winner last night was Israel.
Dissatisfaction with President Obama’s stance toward Israel became a major campaign focus as Turner sought to win over the district’s large Jewish community. About 40% of 9th District voters are Jewish — more than 20 times the national average; moreover, many of those voters are Orthodox Jews, who tend to be more politically conservatives than other Jewish voters.
The large split in voting between the district’s heavily Jewish Brooklyn areas, which went to Turner, and the Queens areas indicates that concerns about the Jewish state may have played a significant role in the election.
Democrats abandoned Weprin in droves, even though he is an Orthodox Jew with a solid pro-Israel record, as local rabbis and two former New York City mayors — Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat Ed Koch — urged the Jewish community to send a message to Obama on Israel by voting for Turner.
Turner’s win is “a message to President Obama that he cannot throw Israel under a bus with impunity,” Koch said, adding that the election outcome amounts to an unequivocal repudiation of the administration’s Israel policies, particularly its call for a return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders and criticism of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
The Democrats loss and the defection of Jewish voters is already causing consternation in the party, adding to a perfect storm of low approval ratings, grim economic projections, and Washington gridlock that has plagued the party for months. Top Democratic donors and strategists told Politico the mood in the party this morning was “awful.”
The silver lining is that New York’s special election results do not necessarily indicate a widespread trend among Jewish voters nationally. The 9th District’s unusual demographic makeup — it is one of the only congressional districts in the country where Orthodox Jews make up a substantial voting bloc — should temper any national extrapolations about what last night’s election results mean. Moreover, other factors, including Weprin’s support for same-sex marriage and the lingering aftertaste of Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal, may have contributed to Turner’s win.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.