The GOP landslides: how they happened and what they mean

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By Nick DAngelo

In the wake of the Sept. 13 special elections for the House of Representatives, both won by Republicans, James Carville, a well-known Democratic strategist of the Clinton era, had this advice for President Obama: panic. Carville’s reasoning is clear: what happened in New York and Nevada on Sept. 13, 2011 could very well happen on Nov. 6, 2012.

Republicans were able to walk away with healthy landslides (both over 55 percent) for two reasons: they learned from past special election mistakes and they switched the debate towards a referendum on the Obama Administration, increasing cross-party voting by appealing to both Republicans and disenfranchised Democrats.

Last May, the New York State Republican Party suffered an embarrassing defeat in the traditionally conservative upstate NY-26. The reason? Democrat Kathy Hochul was able to capitalize on the controversial Ryan Budget Plan and the (albeit untrue) notion that Republicans are looking to destroy Medicare and Social Security as we know it. That didn’t work this time. Republicans were prepared.

In Nevada, Democrat Kate Marshall attempted the Hochul Strategy using an attack against Republican Mike Amodei. The very next day, Amodei countered. In NY-9, a solidly liberal New York City district (which hasn’t sent a Republican to Congress since Woodrow Wilson was president) was won last Tuesday because Bob Turner easily linked his opponent, David Weprin, a member of a local liberal dynasty, to the unpopular policies of Barack Obama, mostly pertaining to the current administration’s dwindling support for Israel.

Turner was able to switch the conversation away from Republican weak points, and focus on the local Democrat Party Machine, winning over independents, and even powerful Democrats in the process. Turner was endorsed by former-Democrat Mayor of New York City Ed Koch and local Democrat State Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

James Carville may be wrong. There is substantial evidence to show that President Obama may not need to panic, and that Republicans may not be justified in measuring the White House drapes.

The issue in New York’s 9th District that dominated debate was Israel. NY-9 has a strong and powerful Jewish population that simply does not dominate the rest of America.

After all, another popular Carville-ism can be applied for the 2012 election: “it’s the economy, stupid.” Not to mention that the 2012 presidential election will be largely fought in key battleground states, like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, and traditionally red states that Obama was able to carry in 2008, like Virginia and North Carolina. New York will stay in the Obama column.

Furthermore, the Nevada seat was not a Republican triumph over Democrat control (as in New York). Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District was created after the 1980 census, and since then has always been represented by a Republican. This is no referendum.

President Obama clearly has some work to do if he is to win re-election. Despite Obama’s insistence that throwing more money at the problem will fix it, the unemployment rate continues to soar, and a plan that actually deals with America’s debt problem is yet to be seen.

Additionally, a new Bloomberg poll came out last week indicating that 81 percent of those surveyed believe that we would be better off if Hillary Clinton were elected in 2008. I happen to be part of those who do. But no matter how much National Republicans hype up these victories, the 2012 election was not decided on Sept. 13, 2011. It will be decided on Nov. 6, 2012.

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