Surprise election defeat sends warning to Obama


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The Independent US

In a dark omen for President Barack Obama's hopes of a second term, a Republican businessman has scored a resounding victory in a special congressional election in a New York City seat that had been a Democrat stronghold for 80 years.

The election was interpreted by jubilant Republicans as a referendum on Mr Obama and his difficulties in reviving a sputtering economy. However, it appeared that voters in a district heavily populated by orthodox Jews were also repudiating White House policy on Israel.

The win by retired TV cable executive Bob Turner, who is credited with creating The Jerry Springer Show, may have been oddly appropriate. He will be replacing Anthony Weiner, the once high-flying Democrat congressman who resigned in disgrace earlier in the summer for sending suggestive pictures of himself over Twitter.

Mr Turner, a political novice, beat David Weprin, an orthodox Jew and a member of the state legislature. The race may have turned a corner when former Democratic Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, backed Mr Turner saying voters need to punish Mr Obama for his policies, including on Israel.

Any backlash against Mr Obama among Jews could have dangerous implications for him next year, for example in Florida where the Jewish vote can be pivotal. It might explain why Mr Obama will be willing to set the US against much of the rest of the world at the UN next week opposing membership for Palestine.

"This message will resound for a full year. It will resound into 2012," Mr Turner said at his victory party. "I only hope our voices are heard, and we can start putting things right again... We've lit one candle today and there's going to be a bonfire pretty soon."

Downplaying the significance of Tuesday's loss will be tricky for Democrats, who have held the seat since 1923. Those who in the past have called the 9th District in New York their own include the late Geraldine Ferraro, who became a vice-presidential nominee, and Senator Charles Schumer.

The New York upset wasn't the only piece of good news for Republicans. In Nevada, their candidate Mark Amodei beat Democrat Kate Marshall for an open seat in the House of Representatives. But that result was much less significant as the district has been in Republican hands ever since it was first contested in the 1980s.