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Shocker in New York, landslide in Nevada

Posted by Richard on September 15, 2011

If Scott Brown's stunning upset in Massachusetts foreshadowed the Democrats' drubbing in November 2010, does Bob Turner's shocking victory over David Weprin in New York portend even more trouble for Dems in 2012? Maybe. I sure hope so.

Dems and their media shills have been whistling past the graveyard today, claiming Turner's 8-point victory in a district that's 3-1 Democratic is no big deal (Erick Erickson has a funny post illustrating their claims). But the polls right before Tuesday's special election told a different story. CBS News reported today:

Weprin, a 56-year-old Orthodox Jew and member of a prominent Queens political family, initially seemed a good fit for the largely white, working-class district, which is nearly 40 percent Jewish.

But voter frustration with Obama put Weprin in the unlikely spot of playing defense.

While Obama won the district by 11 points in 2008 against Republican John McCain, a Siena Poll released Friday found just 43 percent of likely voters approved of the president's job performance, while 54 percent said they disapproved. Among independents, just 29 percent said they approved of Obama's job performance.

PPP's poll was even more informative: 

Turner's winning in a heavily Democratic district for two reasons: a huge lead with independents and a large amount of crossover support.  He's ahead by 32 points at 58-26 with voters unaffiliated with either major party.  And he's winning 29% of the Democratic vote, holding Weprin under 60% with voters of his own party, while losing just 10% of Republican partisans.

If Turner wins on Tuesday it will be largely due to the incredible unpopularity of Barack Obama dragging his party down in the district.  Obama won 55% there in 2008 but now has a staggeringly bad 31% approval rating, with 56% of voters disapproving of him.  It's a given that Republicans don't like him but more shocking are his 16% approval rating with independents and the fact that he's below 50% even with Democrats at 46% approving and 38% disapproving. Obama trails Mitt Romney 46-42 in a hypothetical match up in the district and leads Rick Perry only 44-43.

Unlike Scott Brown, whom Tea Party groups supported largely for strategic reasons, Turner didn't campaign as a moderate centrist. He made the campaign a referendum on Obamanomics, Obamacare, taxes, and spending. (Yes, Israel was an issue, but not as much as some claim. Weprin has a solid, life-long pro-Israel record and he repeatedly criticized the President on that issue.) Democrats and their media shills portrayed Turner as a "Tea Party extremist," and cited his positions on the issues as proof: 

Mr. Turner, citing his background in business, said that the federal government needed to cut spending by 35 percent, and suggested eliminating the Agriculture and Education Departments and curtailing the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We have a government that is out of control,” Mr. Turner said, stressing that the cuts should be made without increasing taxes. “It’s not only possible, it’s absolutely necessary,” he added.

Mr. Weprin, on the other hand, used the Tea Party name as a pejorative and tried to affix it to Mr. Turner as often as possible. He proposed raising taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations, and defended the place of the federal government in regulating the environment.

Unlike the ruling class Republicans, Turner didn't seem to be ashamed of his "extremism," retorting "If I suggest a 30% cut in spending when we're overspending by 40%, does that seem extreme?" Not to me, Bob. And apparently not even to New Yorkers. 

Meanwhile, across the country in Nevada's District 2, Republican Mark Amodei beat Democrat Kate Marshall, which was not a big surprise. But his margin of 22 points was. And Politico's Molly Ball thinks the outcome in one county of that district is even more significant than the huge upset in New York's District 9: 

When Democrats lost Tuesday’s Nevada special election, they didn’t just lose a long-shot House race. They also got creamed in one of the most crucial swing counties in the nation.

Washoe County, the Northern Nevada county that contains Reno, is the No. 1 bellwether in a top Western swing state. It was crucial to Harry Reid’s 2010 reelection, to Barack Obama’s 2008 election and to the countless governors, senators and presidents who have competed in the Silver State before them. And on Tuesday, Republican Mark Amodei won it by 10 points.

Bush carried the county 51-47% in 2004. Obama won it by 12 points in 2008. And a 5-point lead there was critical in Harry Reid's 2010 re-election.

Of Tuesday’s two House elections, it’s the surprise GOP win in New York that’s getting the most attention – an unexpected rout in a seat not held by a Republican since the 1920s. But it is the Nevada race that could hold more ominous signs for Democrats.

It is almost universally true that as goes Washoe, so goes Nevada – and as goes Nevada, so goes the nation. The state has voted for the winner of every presidential race but one since 1912, giving it a stronger claim to bellwether status than Missouri.

How bad do things look for the Dems? The Hill's Cameron Joseph reported:

A Democratic strategist said Obama has become such a problem for down-ticket Democrats that he was wary of encouraging candidates to run next year. “I’m warning my clients — ‘Don’t run in 2012.’ I don’t want to see good candidates lose by 12 to 15 points because of the president,” said the strategist. 

The question for Democrats is, to quote a former governor, "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for you?"

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