As this is written, with 92% of precincts counted, Republican Bob Turner leads Democrat David Weprin 53% to 47%. That doesn't look big but is. In 2008, Mr. Weiner won the district with 93%. In 2010, a bad year for Democrats, he beat Mr. Turner with 61%. In 2008 Barack Obama carried the district 55% to 44%. This week a Sienna College poll said voters there now had an unfavorable opinion of the president by 54% to 43%. It's a perfect reversal.
Orthodox Jews and Israel, gay marriage, the economy—all these things played a part, but at the end of the day it was about Mr. Obama. It is always about his leadership now. And that is a great quandary for Democrats, because they are not going to get rid of him, they are not going to primary him, because they don't want to break their party open.
Lloyd Green, a close follower of New York politics and former staffer in the George H.W. Bush campaign of 1988, looked at the voting patterns. The predominantly Catholic 23rd Assembly District went for Mr. Turner by 2,000 votes out of roughly 10,000 cast. In predominantly Jewish and Russian Flatbush, Mr. Turner got more than twice the votes Mr. Weprin did. "The white middle class is heading for the exits," said Mr. Green. The Republican won with a coalition of Catholics, ethnics and Jews. "This was not only Rudy Giuliani's base, it was Bill Clinton's New York base as well."
Michael Barone in the Washington Examiner: "For nearly two decades it has been taken for granted that white residents [of] metro New York are heavily Democratic." Not in this election: "They just issued what amounts to an emphatic thumbs down on the policies of the Obama Democrats."
At the New York Times, Mark Landler quotes the DNC chair as downplaying the result:
Like other Democrats, Ms. Wasserman Schultz played down the broader implications of the upset in New York, arguing that the district’s Orthodox and Russian-Jewish population makes it more conservative than other Jewish areas. She pointed to polls showing that a majority of Jews still support Mr. Obama and that their level of approval for his performance largely tracks that of the broader electorate.
Still, American Jews are clearly less enchanted with Mr. Obama than they were in 2008, when nearly 8 out of 10 voted for him (in a Gallup poll last July, the most recent month for which data was available, his approval rating was 60 percent). Jewish lawmakers have been warning the White House that this disaffection could hurt the president in turnout, fund-raising and enthusiasm.
“For a while now, I’ve been hearing from my constituents a lot of dissatisfaction with the statements on Israel that have been coming from the president and the administration,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York. “He’ll still get a majority of Jewish votes, but I would not be surprised to see that drop 10 to 20 points.”
Cameron Joseph writes at The Hill:
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a prominent Jewish congressman, said the Jewish vote is a concern for his party.
“I think Jewish voters will be Democratic and be for Obama in 2012, especially if you get a Republican candidate like [Texas] Gov. [Rick] Perry,” he said. “But there’s no question the Jewish community is much more bipartisan than it has been in previous years. There are Jews who are trending toward the Republican Party, some of it because of their misunderstanding of Obama’s policies in the Middle East, and some of it, quite frankly, for economic reasons. They feel they want to protect their wealth, which is why a lot of well-off voters vote for Republicans.”
Polling leading up to the race indicated Obama was dragging down the Democratic candidate. Democratic pollster Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling said that a Turner win would be “largely due to the incredible unpopularity of Barack Obama dragging his party down in the district” after PPP’s polling found Obama with just 31 percent approval in a district he won with 55 percent of the vote in 2008.
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.