What The NY-9 Contest Teaches Us (And Doesn't ) About the Jewish Vote
As usual the Drudge headline was striking and accurate, "Revenge of the Jews." Indeed a big part of GOP candidate Bob Turner's win against the Democratic candidate David Weprin was the Jewish vote going to the GOP. NY 9 may be the most heavily Jewish district in the country (estimates range from 33-40% of the electorate). The real question is what does this mean for the 2012 election and can these results be replicated in other districts. The answer is---probably not. What people nationally forget is that some of the Jewish vote for Turner was about Israel, but also some of the vote was about other issues. And it was the combination of issues that gave Turner the Jewish vote last night.
There were three major Issues in the campaign Israel, Gay Marriage and the economy. When Ed Koch got involved and turned the race into a referendum on Jews and Obama, he gave two reasons. The first was Obama's poor treatment of the Jewish State, and the other was Obamanomics. Interestingly, he did not criticize Obama's economic platform because of all the conservative reasons such as the debt, big government, etc. Koch criticized it because he wasn't spending/doing enough. In his endorsement of Bob Turner published in the Jerusalem Post, he said voters needed to send the Democrats a message that Obama was not liberal enough in the debt ceiling negotiations saying the President has
been the major advocate for seeking a far-reaching deal that would have combined a debt limit increase with substantial spending cuts; significant changes in social programs like Medicare, Medicaid and perhaps Social Security; and as much as $1 trillion in new revenue.
Koch was unhappy that Obama was even considering reforming entitlements. In the end the message Ed Koch brought to the campaign was Obama hates Israel and is too much of an economic moderate.
That appealed to the Liberal Jews of Queens, especially in the areas of Forest Hills and Kew Gardens.
The message to the more conservative Jews of Brooklyn was a bit different.
They too were energized by Obama and Israel but just as important (If not more) was Weprin's recent vote in the NY State assembly in favor of Gay marriage. Indeed according to my sources in the campaign much of the robo-calling to Brooklyn pointed out this Weprin vote.
There is one other issue that could have effected the campaign. Jews in the district were urged to send Obama a message, but it was understood that the message would be a short-term one. It is well known that when the redistricting is done before 2012, NY-9 will be redistricted away. Therefore the winner will probably not be in office for much more than 15 months. I have no evidence of the fact, but I wonder if liberal Jews would be as willing to switch party's if the district was not about to go away.
At the end of July the Democrat had 26% of the Jewish vote, a week before the election that lead was 6% and Weprin's hemorrhaging of Jewish votes was still going on.
Last night's last night's vote for Bob Turner was the result of a "perfect storm." A district whose voters are up to 40% Jewish, and was about to be redistricted out of existence, with two distinct Jewish Communities, one very liberal, the other center-right. On the issues, Liberal disaffection with Obama's policies as not liberal enough, conservative disaffection with Weprin's Gay Marriage vote and Obama's disastrous policy on Israel. None of these issues were big enough to sway Jewish voters on their own, but the combination of two in Queens switched enough Jewish voters to make that vote close in a borough that should have gone overwhelmingly to the Democrat, and a different pairing of two gave Turner a landslide in Brooklyn, where the race should have been close.
Last night's vote for Turner was a message to Obama by the district Jews about his Israel policies, but it wasn't the only message. NY-9 is a unique combination of voters with a unique combination of issues, not a bellwether of the Jewish vote across the country.
GOP strategist need to understand that the traditional Democratic Jewish vote is vulnerable in 2012, but in most areas a switch in the Jewish vote will not tip the election (but it might in state such as Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania) , and each set of voting circumstances are different requiring different issues to be combined with the Israel issue to sway Jewish voters.