Shock now, irony later: The latest Siena poll shows Republican businessman Robert Turner leading Democratic state assemblyman David Weprin in the race to succeed Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th Congressional District by a healthy 50%-44% margin.
The poll’s religious breakdown shows the Republican winning on the strength of a hefty Catholic showing, despite Jewish support for the Democrat. Catholic respondents favored Turner 62% to 33%, while Jewish voters backed Weprin 51% to 45%. (The poll questioned 886 respondents; the margin of error was 3.3%.)
The irony is that a Republican win will surely be trumpeted around the world as a Likud victory and evidence that Obama’s Middle East policies have done the unthinkable and shattered the century-old marriage of Jewish voters and the Democratic Party. Here’s CNN setting the stage for that trope August 10 in a report on the last Siena poll:
In one of the most Jewish districts in the country, Democrats have struggled to hold a wide lead as the campaign has turned into a competition over who’s a better friend of Israel. While Weprin would be the only Orthodox Jew in the House of Representatives if elected, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch stirred controversy by endorsing Turner. Koch hoped his move would send a message to the White House that Jewish Americans are displeased with President Barack Obama’s policies on Israel.
Still, it’s a big-time “poll shocker,” as Politico.com aptly called it. Actually, that understates the case. The Democrats’ upstate upset victory last May 24 in the special election to replace Rep. Chris Lee was a shocker. A Republican victory in the heart of the Democrats’ home turf in Queens and Brooklyn might end up looking more like an earthquake. The Democrats own New York City. If they can lose in the boroughs, they’re reduced to fighting their way back from their last stronghold on the Upper West Side, like the forces of Middle Earth in their last stronghold in Gondor or the Israel Labor Party fighting to hold onto Givatayim.
The religious breakdown in the August poll showed Weprin doing slightly better in both groups: Turner led among Catholics by 55% to 37% and Weprin led among Jews 56% to 35%. Weprin was ahead overall at the point by 48% to 42% (501 likely voters polled, with a 4.4% margin of error).
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).