Democrats took a serious beating Tuesday night as Republicans scored two special election victories, including a major upset win in the race to replace New York Congressman Anthony Weiner.The first Democratic loss, in Nevada’s 2nd congressional district, was unsurprising, with one Republican replacing another in a deep-red district. Republican state senator Mark Amodei sailed past State Treasurer Kate Marshall, 57% to 32%, to fill the seat vacated by Dean Heller’s Senate appointment.
But the GOP was not supposed to win the New York’s 9th District special election — the race wasn’t even supposed to be close. That didn’t stop Republican Bob Turner from edging out Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin, 53% to 47% with 70% of precincts reporting.
For all of the headlines and bad puns Weiner garnered, the race to fill his empty seat was a remarkably low-key affair. But Turner quietly siphoned support from Democrats and independents over the past six weeks, capitalising on voters’ dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama. In particular, he benefited from defections by Orthodox Jewish voters unhappy with Obama’s positions on Israel.
As Turner climbed in the polls, the national Republican party activated behind the scenes, funelling money and organisers into the district in the hopes of capturing what has long been a liberal stronghold. Panicked, Democrats also poured cash into the race over the past few days, but their efforts were too little too late.
Republicans are wasting no time casting the New York victory as a national referendum on the President’s policies. Meanwhile Democrats are trying to downplay any broader implications by blaming the win on Weprin’s badly mismanaged campaign.
In reality, voter dissatisfaction and a weak Democratic candidate were likely both factors in the GOP upset. But that won’t stop tonight’s results from pushing Democrats deeper into the doldrums, prompting some deep soul-searching as the party heads into the 2012 election cycle.
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