Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Tipping Point?

The tipping point may have been reached for President Obama.  Two House special elections took place last night -- one in Nevada, one in New York.  While the election in Nevada was never really in doubt (Dems hoped to make it competitive because it was a swing district, but had conceded well in advance), the election in New York had serious significance.  The seat belonged to Anthony Weiner, and used to belong to Chuck Schumer and Geraldine Ferraro.  And now... it belongs to the GOP...
Republicans have scored an upset victory in a New York City House race that became a referendum on President Barack Obama's economic policies.

Retired media executive and political novice Bob Turner defeated Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin (WEHP'-rihn) in a special election Tuesday to succeed Rep. Anthony Weiner (WEE'-nur), a seven-term Democrat who resigned in June after a sexting scandal.

The heavily Democratic district spanning parts of Queens and Brooklyn had never sent a Republican to the House. But frustration with the continued weak national economy gave Republicans the edge.

...Democrats, panicked at the prospect of an embarrassing loss, poured cash into the race and sent in their stars to try to save Weprin, a state lawmaker who was forced to defend Obama's economic policies even as he tried to stress his own independence and close ties to the community.

Republicans worked to frame the race as a referendum on Obama, even though turnout is usually low in a special congressional election.

...Hoping to shift the momentum in the final days, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee invested more than $500,000 in ads in New York's pricey television market. An independent Democratic group, the House Majority PAC, ran ads, too. And Obama for America, part of the Democratic National Committee that support the president's re-election, urged volunteers to rally behind Weprin.

The party also enlisted two of its biggest guns, former President Bill Clinton and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to record phone calls for Weprin. And Democrats relied on organized labor and other affiliated groups to bring voters to the polls.
Take note of who didn't record a robo-call: the President.  One presumes that he would have done so, if the DNC or the DCCC or the Weprin campaign thought it would have been a positive. 

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is desperately trying to claim that the district was a tough one for Democrats, but considering that the last time a Republican represented some of this district was during the time of Warren Harding, that's a tough sell. 

It should be noted that this is a one of the more conservative (that's a relative term here) districts in NYC, in part because of an Orthodox Jewish population that may well have found Weprin's views on gay marriage (he voted for it as a state legislator) offensive.  And the same populace may well be upset with the Obama Administration's treatment of Isreal.  And Weprin will now be thrown under the bus (violation of the new tone of civility acknowledged), Martha Coakley-style, as a crappy candidate.  And he was, since he didn't even live in the District and apparently underestimated the national debt by about $10 trillion during a media interview last month (one might think this explains a lot about the Democratic Party in general).  and to be fair, the GOP weathered a series of special election losses in 2009 and 2010 prior to grabbing 63 House seats last fall (although a good number of those losses occurred in a heavy Dem district or featured the presence of third party candidates).

And yet... there's something in this result that may trigger some panic in the Democratic Party.  Or, should I say, more panic.  Mickey Kaus and Dave Wiegel both have good takes, with a conclusion that poses a serious problem for Democrats: the old saw of screaming that the GOP will kill Medicare and Social Security didn't save them, precisely because the Democrats themselves have now admitted (as vaguely as possible) the need for changes to entitlements.

Many people thought the GOP walked into a trap with the Ryan plan.  The Dems would be able to attack the GOP mercilessly on entitlements, a tried-and-true strategy, right?

Except that the Dems have a serious problem because they know, as does the populace, that entitlements need to be addressed as part of any solution to the monstrous debt run up by the country and insanely accelerated by President Obama.  The failure of Obama to embrace the report of his own debt commission last winter is looking more and more like a losing strategy, precisely because there is no real backup strategy, and voters recognize that.  Obama's failed to address economic problems -- why should anyone believe he's willing to take the steps neccessary to address entitlements?   The Ryan plan may not be ideal, and Rick Perry's rhetoric on Social Security (even if it is truthful) may go beyond what people find comfort with... but they take less comfort in a party that acknowledges there is a problem, but proposes no real solution to it.  The trap is now one for the Democrats.

Maybe they'll still find a way around it.  But the signs aren't reassuring.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home