Polls close at 9 p.m. ET in New York and 10 p.m. ET in Nevada. PPP surveyed the latter race in just the past few days and predicts a double-digit win for Republican Mark Amodei. McCain barely won the district three years ago but thanks in part to a breezy 33/59 approval rating for Obama, this is now a walkover for the GOP.
The suspense is in New York. In one corner: Republican Bob Turner, who leads by six points in not one but two recent polls. That’s encouraging, as is the fact that the White House is already pre-spinning an expected defeat, but that margin is by no means a guarantee of victory in a special election. In the other corner: A guy who received a kiss-of-death endorsement this morning from Anthony Weiner; who can’t vote for himself today because he doesn’t live in the district — and has no plans to relocate if he wins; and whose secret weapon on the trail appears to be Bowser from Sha Na Na. There’s one simple question here. If Turner holds on, how much national significance does this victory have? Don’t the local quirks — chiefly a heavy Orthodox Jewish presence that’s placed special emphasis on gay marriage and the White House’s policy towards Israel — mean that this election is sui generis?
Says Nate Silver, maybe not:
A study by David Smith and Thomas L. Brunell on special elections to the House since 1900 finds that they do anticipate general election results to some extent: there is a modest, but statistically significant, correlation between how many seats change hands during special elections and which party does best in the next midterms.
The connection does not always work. In advance of the 2010 elections, Democrats won seven of the nine special elections to the House, with an even score as far as seats changing parties. (Democrats lost Hawaii’s First Congressional District to Republicans, but won New York’s 23rd, both under somewhat unusual circumstances with multicandidate fields.) Then they lost 63 seats in November…
But that assumes that parties are as cool-headed about the results as we’re attempting to be here. And they aren’t. A loss in New York’s Ninth District, after a rough couple of months for Democrats, will only worsen their morale. It could discourage other Democrats from running.
And it could affect campaign strategy in other races. Republicans might conclude that Israel is a vulnerability for Mr. Obama, for instance, and make it a bigger part of their campaigns. That may or may not be a good strategy for them — but it could affect the landscape of the campaign all the same.
In fact, state Democrats have already found the silver lining in a likely Weprin loss: It’ll be a “wake-up call” to Obama to change his policies before the party gets wiped out across the board next year. That makes sense superficially — Obama’s approval rating in the district is 36/52 — but what it means in practice, I have no idea. If in fact the district is a quirky outlier and not representative of mainstream Democratic opinion, which way is O supposed to shift policy-wise? Right, to pander to the more conservative Democrats of NY-9, or left, to pander to the base that’s not really in action tonight?
Update: Benchmarks via Sean Trende:
In ’08, Weiner carried Brooklyn portion of NY9 52/48. Queens = 65/35. Queens = 70% total vote.There’s your benchmarks.
Update: More benchmarks via Nate Silver:
NY09 over/under line: Weprin (D) would need about 54% of the votes in Queens precincts, 42% in Brooklyn precincts, to tie Turner (R)
Update: With roughly 60 percent reporting, Turner leads by six as I write this — but there are almost 100 precincts still to come in from his stronghold in Brooklyn, so the margin’s bound to increase. At a minute before midnight on the east coast, the AP’s seen enough. Turner wins. The lede: “Republicans have scored an upset victory in a New York City House race that became a referendum on President Barack Obama’s economic policies.”
I should wait to do this until the race is called for Amodei in Nevada too, but with roughly 40 percent reporting, he’s out to an honest-to-goodness 20-point lead. We’ve seen enough there too, I think. Release the ‘bot.
Update: Get out your broom. It’s over in Nevada too.