Looking for the message in NY-9

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When Democrat Kathy Hochul won an upset in the special election for NY-26 in May, that one really did seem to be about the Republican plan to kill Medicare. Ms. Hochul captured a heavily Republican district by going after her opponent for saying she supported Congressman Paul Ryan’s proposal to turn Medicare into vouchercare.

Last night Republican Bob Turner captured NY-9, the seat that had been held by Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner. Mr. Turner is the first Republican to carry the district since the 1920s, and he did it by eight points. Though the district has been trending conservative, Mr. Turner’s victory margin is still enough to make either side want to draw some conclusions. Republican House Speaker John Boehner went the omnibus route with his written statement, calling the victory a warning about President Obama’s “failed ‘stimulus’ and the misguided policies on Israel.”

Much of this race did hinge on the politics of Israel, which is not likely to swing an election at the national level. What does stick for Democrats is this kind of thing, from the New York Times:

“I am a registered Democrat, I have always been a registered Democrat, I come from a family of Democrats — and I hate to say this, I voted Republican,” said Linda Goldberg, 61, after casting her ballot in Queens. “I need to send a message to the president that he’s not doing a very good job. Our economy is horrible. People are scared.”

President Obama has been out stumping this week for his American Jobs Act. He’s trying to make the case to the voting public that the government needs to help the economy and that Republicans have been standing in the way. To the extent that NY-9 tells Democrats something, it’s that the message is not yet getting through. 

The Times did find a voter who gets the administration’s argument – Erik Huneke, 35 and a Ph.D. candidate in history. “It’s understandable for people to be upset,” he told the paper. “But it would be nice if people had a longer-term perspective in terms of why they’re hurting now. It’s not just Obama’s fault.” If Democrats have to win people over one doctoral student at a time, they’re going to have a very long election season.

Also yesterday, Republican Mark Amodei won Nevada’s congressional special election by more than expected. Nate Silver says this loss and the one in Nevada yesterday make it 2010 for Democrats all over again. “These are waves that portend trouble,” he writes.

Bonus: Steve Benen runs the tally of special elections dating back to 2005.

Anthony Weiner

Looking for the message in NY-9

Updated