POLITICS -- September 13, 2011 at 3:04 PM EDT
N.Y. Democrat Engel: Special Election Shouldn't Be About Israel
Voters in the Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods of New York City go to the polls to elect a replacement for Anthony Weiner, the veteran House member who left his 9th District seat earlier this year. While the seat has been safe for Democrats for years, their candidate, David Weprin, is behind in late polling to Republican Bob Turner -- raising the possibility that the party could lose a district that is dominated by registered Democrats.
You can read analysis of the polling in the race, as well as of Tuesday's special election in Nevada's 2nd District, from the New York Times' Nate Silver here. Turner leads by about 6 points in the most recent polling.
The Weprin-Turner matchup has centered on Turner seeking to make the race a referendum on President Obama and in particular, his stance on Israel. President Obama's stance that Israel should return to its 1967 borders has been unpopular among some Jewish Americans.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a Public Policy Polling survey found that President Obama did poorly in the district among voters who said policy on Israel was very important, while another Siena survey suggested that voters in the race are concerned most with the state of the economy.
The NewsHour spoke Tuesday with Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York City Democrat, about his thoughts on the race. He criticized former New York City mayor and Democrat Ed Koch for endorsing Turner.
"People in that district care about Israel, but they also care about other things that we're fighting about...preserving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Turner has made it clear that he would be a typical Republican Party vote which we believe jeopardizes all that to keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy," Engel said. "Clearly it's a race because some people are not happy with the president's Israel policy and Ed Koch and others want to send a message. It's the wrong message at the wrong time. This is like my father used to say -- cutting off your nose to spite your face."
Rep. Engel added that he thought turnout would be the key to the race.
Regardless of the outcome, it will be hard to extrapolate real meaning from one special election. However, the New York and Nevada elections focus the attention on what is likely to be the most crucial question of the 2012 cycle: just how vulnerable is President Obama?
Rep. Engel compares Obama's situation now to that of Harry Truman in 1948, when an unpopular Truman survived a Republican Congress and narrowly defeated Thomas Dewey to earn a second term.
"Look, I think right now, the feisty Barack Obama, the one that we knew and loved in 2008, I think reappeared last week in his joint session of Congress. I think and I hope that will be the Obama we're gonna see from now until the election time," Engel said. "Truman had a Republican Congress also. People said he couldn't win reelection. And he went out and took his case on the road and he railed against the 'do-nothing' Congress and I think that's what President Obama has to do."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, downplayed his party's chances of winning the seat, the Hill newspaper reported.
"When the results come in tonight, we could be happy or we could be sad," he said, according to the Hill. "This is a very serious Democrat district once represented by Anthony Weiner, also represented by Chuck Schumer and also represented by Geraldine Ferraro. This is not a district that Republicans have any right to believe we could win. But we do have a good candidate, I think it will be a close race and hope springs eternal."