Some reader reaction to the NY-9 special election and what it means:
TPM Reader SS:
I’m not sure why David is claiming that the NY-9 election results - if they go Republican - paints a “very bleak” picture for the Democrats. Just a couple of months ago, the Democrats won both CA-36 and NY-26, and TPM called those very encouraging signs for the Democrats to take back control of the House in 2012. How do things change so quickly? My guess is that they don’t, and that people throw around conclusions like “very bleak picture” based upon the hypothetical results in one Congressional district, where the Democratic candidate is deeply flawed … Weprin’s picture is bleak - not the whole party’s. You put up a loser candidate, you lose, even where you “should” win. (see, e.g., Christine O’Donnell)
TPM Reader SS:
Is it possible you are overstating the lessons of NY-9 for the whole country just a bit? A divisive comgressman just resigned due to an embarrassing, ready-made-for-ridicule scandal. Does that not give an edge to the opposition candidate in any scenario, as opposed to an election in a district under normal times. Its seems a stretch to say this is all a referendum on Obama and not Anthony’s Wiener. (See, I just can’t help myself.)
TPM Reader JN:
Something else to note are the demographics of NY-9 - it is very white…it’s only 4 percent black and less than 15% Hispanic. A lot of working/middle class neighborhoods filled and a lot people of Irish and Italian (and Jewish) descent. Think Reagan Democrats. Think Howard Beach. I don’t want to overly emphasize the race factor here but I think it’s definitely in the mix. … Redistricting after 2003 made it considerably more white which may help to explain why it went for Gore with 67% in 2000 but only went for Kerry and Obama with 56% and 55%, respectively.
I’ve lived near this district at various points in my life (don’t live near it now) and some of the racism I saw/heard there wasn’t all that much different than what I see/hear down in New Orleans when I visit my in-laws.
There are also some affluent neighborhoods like Maspeth, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows. Think hedge fund managers whose feelings have been hurt because Obama said mean things about Wall Street.
So, as you said, I’m not sure this is a representative Dem district but they still have no business losing it by more than 3pts, if at all. I expect it to be closer than the polls are showing and if the Dem candidate does lose by 1-2 pts, I think the “weak candidate” aspect will be a big factor and not indicative of Dems future prospects in similar districts in 2012.
And finally, TPM Reader GR, who takes issue with my assessment but whose description of the district reinforces my point that this is a district with many of the characteristics that you would associate with swing districts elsewhere in the Northeast and Rust Belt:
I’ve done a fair amount of political and campaign work in NYC, and some within various parts of NY 9 (working for a Dem in the ‘05 Mayoral primary, against AW). I believe it isn’t appropriate to ascribe any kind of meaning from the results of this race (however it goes), for a number of reasons. But in general, it has nothing to do with the NYC most of us think of. It’s a hodgepodge of neighborhoods, some quite suburban (one almost rural, actually - with dirt roads.) There is not a little racism out there (take a look at turnout between ‘04 & ‘08 - as I recall, it fell a lot), and parts of it are extremely isolated. This would be a Republican majority district in any other town, but voters here just haven’t totally realized they’re Republicans yet. (Kinda like Ed Koch). It’s much closer to Long Island than Manhattan culturally.
As to the politics, there are dozens of little fiefdoms, and it’s all based on BS from 40 years ago - it’s pretty old school in that sense. Party hacks think of themselves as powerful. Some are, some aren’t and it’s impossible to know who’s who unless you’ve lived there for 40 years. And finally, let’s not forget that there are a number of conservative legislators already representing some of these areas - Carl Kruger, Marty Golden and Serph Maltese up until a few years ago. They just elected a Republican councilman in Howard Beach/Rockaways, etc. This just is not a bellweather district IMO. There are plenty of non-standard factors that will skew the results to make them irrelevant.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.