Republicans scored twin victories in two closely watched House special elections last night, signaling ongoing problems for the Democrats in regions essential for their success in any national election.
By far the biggest upset was in New York’s 9th district, a heavily Democratic New York City seat with the highest percentage of Jewish voters in America. Predictably, President Obama’s policies toward Israel took center stage in this fight and the resulting victory for political novice Republican Bob Turner over incumbent Democrat Assemblyman David Weprin demonstrates the biggest potential shift in a major Democratic voter block in recent memory.
When I was growing up on Long Island (my parents immigrated and settled with other families just outside of New York City), Democrat Mayor Ed Koch was an outspoken icon of liberalism. Yet, his endorsement of Republican Turner over Democrat Weprin in this special election crystalized the problem which President Obama’s Israel policy has created for his party. It’s not just Republican Jews who are upset, but Democrats and independents as well.
The sensitivity to American foreign policy toward Israel is no doubt heightened by recent events: an uncertain future in Egypt, last week’s attack on Israel’s Cairo embassy by an angry mob, Iran’s aggressive nuclear program, and Iran’s continued support for terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah remind everyone of serious threats to Israel’s security.
Further, the President’s Cairo address of 2009 and his May speech endorsing pre-1967 borders for Israel (“with land swaps”) have not been met by a reduced level of hostility toward Israel, and many believe the President’s actions have only emboldened Israel’s enemies by suggesting America’s support for Israel may not be what it was under previous Administrations. The President’s rude treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not go unnoticed, either.
A Republican victory in a seat our party has not held since 1923 was just the latest domestic symptom of the President’s foreign policy problems.
In Nevada, it was great to see my friend Mark Amodei, the former Chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, win his election to the House in the second district. This special election was triggered by the appointment of Congressman Dean Heller (R) to the United States Senate in May. Democrats were hoping to use an upset victory for their team as a sign Americans are rejecting the policies of the new Republican House of Representatives.
The West is critically important to both parties in the national Electoral College. Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico are among important swing states each party needs to win the White House in 2012, and a GOP victory in Nevada last night has national implications.