Democrats: New York 9 Loss Doesn't Mean Anything For Obama In 2012

09/14/2011 01:25 pm ET | Updated Nov 14, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Democrats were quick to defend the party against its losses in New York's ninth congressional district and Nevada's second, saying on Wednesday that the elections are not a "bellwether" for public opinion of President Barack Obama.

"The bottom line is it's not a bellwether district. Anyone who tries to extrapolate ... is making a big mistake," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said of his former district on a Democratic National Committee call.

"We are not going to sugar coat it, this was a tough loss," the Democratic Congressional Committee admitted in a memo released on Wednesday. Still, the committee, which is responsible for fundraising and electoral strategy for Congressional Democrats, was quick to say the results of New York 9 "are not reflective of what will happen in November 2012."

The media narrative of Tuesday's special elections mainly focused on New York 9, formerly held by Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned in scandal in June. Observers have declared the Republican win a victory for pro-Israel politics, a rebuke of New York's gay marriage law, a turning tide against Obama and a response to the faltering economy.

Mostly, though, headlines have focused on what the loss means for Obama, particularly in a district that has been blue since 1923. Nevada 2, by contrast, is typically a Republican district and came as less of a shock.

It's possible that voters in New York 9, like voters overall, have soured on Obama somewhat since he was elected in 2008. After the special election, the Associated Press cited Siena poll figures from Friday that only 43 percent of likely voters in the district approved of Obama's job performance.

Of course, it's impossible to pinpoint the exact reason why Democratic candidate David Weprin lost to Republican Bob Turner in New York 9, but Democrats argue economic concerns, not Obama's unpopularity, may be the primary culprit. Obama's jobs plan, then, could help him in 2012, Schumer said.

"I think the jobs issue is going to be very, very important, probably more important than just about any other," he said. "The fact that the president has a strong, robust plan on jobs, and I think the Republican plan would not resonate in this district. I think the president will do well in this district."

The White House also responded to the special election losses, saying they should not be viewed as a referendum on the president. New York 9, in particular, was a special case in a specific district, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said, according to a pool report.

"Special elections are often unique and their outcomes don't tell you very much about future regularly scheduled elections," Carney said. "You can make those predictions and look foolish in 14 months or not, I'm simply saying we do not view them" as a referendum.

It's common for the losing side in a special election to argue that the results should not be taken as a sign of broader trends. After Republicans lost a special election in New York's 26th congressional district in May, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said it would be "naive and risky ... to predict the future based on the results of this unusual race."

Special elections are "poor indicators of broader trends or future general election outcomes," Sessions said at the time. "If special elections were an early warning system, they sure failed to alert the Democrats of the political tsunami that flooded their ranks in 2010."

Moving forward, Democrats plan to push a message that Obama is pro-jobs and growth, in hopes that the issue will help him win his re-election bid.

"Our chances remain quite strong," DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said on a conference call. "While the Republicans are spending the year courting the Tea Party base and signing onto any pledge the Tea Party demands, the president's out there fighting every day to create jobs."

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