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One of Weprin’s final ads was particularly tone-deaf. It showed a plane with the words “Bob Turner For Congress” on the side heading towards buildings. The ad was aired two days before the 10th commemoration of 9/11. It was quickly pulled, but it nonetheless incurred the wrath of Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn), who crossed party lines to endorse Republican candidate Bob Turner. “Right before September 11th, this is the most irresponsible, despicable behavior. As a New Yorker, as a Democrat, I am calling on the other side to not just remove it as commercial, but I am asking for an apology to New Yorkers–it is Chutzpah, ultimate audacity,” he fumed.
Hikind’s endorsement of Turner, as well as that of former Mayor Ed Koch, who also crossed party lines to support the Republican, reflected the other significant issue in the race. In a letter to The New York Times, Koch noted that his support for Turner was “intended to send a message to President Obama that he cannot throw Israel under the bus with impunity.” Hikind echoed that sentiment saying he also wanted to “send a message to President Obama about his failed, disastrous economic policies and his reckless policies toward Israel.”
Both men were referring to Mr. Obama’s May 19th speech in which he contended that Israel should retreat to its pre-1967 borders in order to facilitate a Middle East peace agreement. The New York Post‘s John Podhoretz noted that while the “Jewish vote may be decisive in this one district, the Jewish voter is another matter” with respect to the 2012 election, in terms of both fundraising and the swing states of Pennsylvania and Florida. Podhoretz contends that a switch of one-third of the Jewish vote in either or both states, or Jews not voting at all, would make Mr. Obama’s re-election virtually impossible. Irony number two: Weprin is an Orthodox Jew, and Bob Turner is a Catholic.
Another issue that may have cost Weprin some votes from Orthodox Jews was his support for the gay marriage initiative approved by the state legislature.
In some last minute intrigue, the Washington Times reported late Tuesday afternoon that the Turner campaign, fearing vote fraud, intended to have the ballot impounded immediately after the polls closed. “Last night [Monday] we filed with one of the judges and then today we were attempting to serve Weprin. We served the board of elections last night to this morning. I’m not too sure of the timing of it,” said Turner campaign manager E. O’Brien Murray. “There’s been significant evidence of election fraud occurring. There have been in at least five occurrences of deceased individuals receiving absentee ballots, which cannot happen legally. Other people who have not applied for absentee ballots have received ballots, which is against the law in New York State. They haven’t even applied for them, but they received them,” he added.
At 11:30 PM, the Associated Press cited “problems” with reporting results. The AP noted that last year, New York replaced outdated lever-operated voting machines with paper ballots and optical scanners, which take longer to process.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Shortly before midnight, both The Atlantic and the Washington Post gave the election to Turner. With over half the districts reporting, Turner was leading 53 percent to 47 percent over Weprin. Nate Silver of The New York Times tweeted, “A crude extrapolation from borough-wide results would have Turner winning this by about 10 points.”
A crude extrapolation is something Democrats are likely to attempt in order to downplay the significance of this loss. No doubt they will say a special election doesn’t hold much significance with respect to the broader picture. Yet considering how much they were willing to read into New York’s last special election, when Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin in New York’s 26th Congressional District by a 47-42 percent margin, such attempts will ring exceedingly hollow.
Bottom line: Democrats may be in more trouble than they imagine heading into 2012. And it’s becoming clear the primary source of that trouble is the man occupying the Oval Office.
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