Bob Turner and David Weprin

Predicting the spin after the NY-9 election

The special election for the congressman's seat is a tossup, but we know what the pundits will say about it


Alex Pareene
September 13, 2011 4:30PM (UTC)

Tuesday is the special election to replace Anthony Weiner as representative for New York's 9th Congressional District. Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin was expected to walk away with it, but Republican challenger Bob Turner has lately been polling tied with and ahead of Weprin, and many observers now expect Turner to win. If Turner does win, pundits and columnists and reporters will draw a number of lessons from this unexpected-ish but also currently pretty much expected victory. If Weprin pulls off the rare "upset by a favorite," there will be other important meta-narratives for politicos to dissect.

Thankfully, all of these lessons and narratives are extremely predictable. One of two things will happen tonight, and pundits will draw one or more of the following lessons, depending.

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If Bob Turner wins today...

... it means

  • Voters nationwide have rejected Barack Obama. He's a political loser. This was a referendum on the popularity of Barack Obama among moderate voters and he lost, embarrassingly.
  • Democrats are turning on Obama. "Top Democrats" already "privately" told the New York Post's Fred Dicker that they secretly hoped Weprin would lose, in order to give Barack Obama a "wake-up call." Fanatically anti-gay Dov Hikund and eccentric former Mayor Ed Koch, among the few Democrats on the record actually wanting Turner to win, speak for many other disenchanted members of the party.
  • Jewish voters are finally giving up on the Democratic Party. After years and years of praying, the neocons won, and now Jews are Republicans.
  • Obama's agenda is dead in the water: This is a tricky one because it could end up self-fulfilling.

Questions pundits won't ask:

  • Have voters turned against candidates with mustaches?
  • Are people still just voting alphabetically by last name?
  • Bob Turner 2012? (OK, people may actually float this.)

What it really "means":

Russian/former Soviet immigrants with no historic ties to the Democratic Party but who strongly support a conservative Israeli government supported a Republican for Congress in part because they believe, erroneously, that Barack Obama is anti-Israel. (Many of them probably also believe he is a Muslim.) The most conservative non-Staten Island district in New York City supported a rich "outsider" candidate over a sloppy and unexciting Democratic politician. Barack Obama is in trouble among very, very conservative pro-Israel voters, as he already was before. The political makeup of the House of Representatives has barely changed and this district is likely to cease to exist soon. Addressing the myth that he's anti-Israel is probably one of the least important things President Obama needs to do between now and the next election, because he still has the support of most of the American Jewish community. Regardless, media attention paid to this race will give him even more trouble passing his "Jobs Bill."

If David Weprin wins today...

... it means:

  • "Voter Fraud." It's very prevalent, in the imaginations of conservatives -- especially in districts with any poor or black or Hispanic people in them. The Turner campaign already signaled that they're worried about "voter fraud," and the usual suspects have preemptively sounded the alarm. This is what conservatives will crow about, for years.
  • The fact that Weprin almost lost a "heavily Democratic" or "liberal New York City" district means Obama basically did lose. It shouldn't have been so close to begin with, pundits will say, holding up the close results as proof of the interpretation they decided on in the event of a Weprin loss.
  • "Moving to the center" is the Democratic Party's only hope. This is always the answer to everything. Weprin won because of his "moderate" position on, uh ... the "ground zero Mosque."

Questions people won't ask:

  • Should Barack Obama replace Biden on the ticket with David Weprin?
  • Should Obama convert to Orthodox Judaism?
  • Did Anthony Weiner trade any "sexts for votes"?

What it really means:

A Democrat won a traditionally Democratic district in New York City, despite a surprisingly strong showing from a wealthy challenger. The district will likely cease to exist soon. The press will not announce this victory as a vote of national support for Obama's "mandate" and will in fact soon forget all about this race because "favorite beats underdog" is not a very entertaining story.

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Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Anthony Weiner, D-n.y. Barack Obama Israel New York New York City War Room

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