The Obama White House suffered another setback Tuesday in New York’s 9th Congressional District with the election of Republican Bob Turner. More than just the typical special election upset, Turner’s victory is also being viewed as a rebuke on Obama’s economic policies and his loss of support in the Jewish community for his position on Israel.
Turner led New York Assemblyman David Weprin with around 53 percent of the vote. The district includes large sections of Brooklyn and Queens, but contains a conservative tilt with a large Jewish population. Democrats claim Weprin was a weak candidate, but GOP operatives say the “Obama factor,” combined with the loss of prominent Democrats, such as former Mayor Ed Koch, helped secure a Republican win.
The GOP scored not one, but two victories on Tuesday with former Republican state Sen. Mark Amodel winning Nevada’s 2nd District. The Nevada seat was viewed as a “GOP friendly” district, yet Republicans still felt pressure to win handily.
Republicans desperately needed this win after losing a congressional seat last year that had been held by former Rep. Chris Lee, who like Weiner, resigned after a sex scandal and could hardly stomach another opportunity to gain ground in the House.
“Frankly, we couldn’t afford to lose again,” a GOP strategist involved in both the New York and Nevada races told Politico. “The member anger would be even worse than it was in NY-26.”
After losing 23 of 34 special elections since 2003, Republicans were motivated to turn the tide given the fickle temperament of voters nationwide.
Republicans threw all their artillery and air power to win both seats. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican National Committee, along with several affiliated groups, were bound and determined not to let either of these seats get away from them. As soon as Democrats aired an ad, some Republican battalion was ready to strike – and to strike hard.
But winning over the airwaves was not their only strategy. Energizing the local and state parties to enlist volunteers to go door-to-door and make thousands of phone calls to increase voter turnout was equally important.
“This is not rocket science – it’s just hard work,” another GOP operative who worked in Nevada told Politico. “We were prepared for the Democrats to use the Medicare issue. Mark [Amodel] inoculated himself early on. We prepared for a major competitive race, and after early voting started we went, ‘Hmm, when are [Democrats] going to do something?' And they just never did.”
Democrats maintained their efforts were not concentrated in Nevada. However, they did want to keep control of the New York 9th district formerly held by Anthony Weiner.