Campaign 2010

Sep 14, 2011

RE: The NY-09 Special Election

TO: Interested Parties

FROM: DCCC Communications

RE: The NY-09 Special Election

DATE: September 14, 2011  


We are not going to sugar coat it, this was a tough loss. Over the next few days, you will hear a lot of misinterpretations from Republicans and casual House observers about why Democrats lost the NY-09 Special Election and what it means.

Do not let the moment define the long-term: Democrats stole a Republican seat in upstate New York and now they have stolen one from us. This was one in a series of battles, not the end of the war. We are singularly focused on winning a Democratic majority in the House by winning

25 seats – less than half the average number of seats that flipped in each of the past three cycles. Our goal is to win the House by putting a broad array of seats from around the country into play. NY-09 was never a part of the DCCC’s strategic plan to win the House in 2012 because the district will likely be eliminated in New York’s congressional redistricting.

Remember, in 2006, Republicans swept competitive Special Elections and lost the House. In 2010, Democrats swept competitive Special Elections and lost the House.

The results in NY-09 are not reflective of what will happen in November 2012 when Democratic challengers are running against Republican incumbents who voted to end Medicare and cut Social Security while protecting tax loopholes for big corporations and the ultra wealthy. Republicans’ record on these issues, their failure to create jobs, and the contrast with the Republican presidential nominee will be major factors that benefit House Democrats in November 2012. In addition, races will be decided by a larger, more Democratic electorate.


Special Elections are always difficult. A unique set of circumstances contributed to this loss, that were not factors in previous Special Elections and which cannot be replicated in other districts around the country in November 2012.

A key to Kathy Hochul’s victory in NY-26 was that she was able to get up on TV early and shape the campaign narrative around the Republican’s plan to end Medicare.  Polling showed this was a very effective message with voters in NY-09 as well but, the cost of TV and radio made it impossible for David Weprin to get up on TV until extremely late in the race and drive that message.

In NY-09, the electorate was much smaller (about half the size of the NY-26 electorate), less engaged, and more conservative than the in NY-26. The inability to effectively communicate in broadcast media made it impossible for Weprin, who was viewed as an incumbent, to define himself defend against Republicans’ attacks and lies in a variety of niche communities.

Republicans have made a lot of noise about their false claim that NY-09 is a referendum on the President’s economic policies. There is a fatal flaw with that Republican argument: Republicans did not run a NY-09 campaign on the President’s economic policies.

Republicans used the Karl Rove playbook to scare small, discrete groups of single-issue voters in a low turnout election. For example, Tea Party Republican Bob Turner played on New Yorkers fear and anxiety around the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Turner’s TV ads and mailers included images of the Twin Towers burning and the so-called Ground Zero mosque. Republican outside groups targeted Republican voters, Italian and Irish Catholics, and Orthodox Jews.

NY-09 is a working and middle class district that has rapidly been trending more Republican. In 2000, Vice President Al Gore received 67 percent of the vote. In 2008, President Obama received 55 percent of the vote, just 2 percent more than his national results of 53 percent. That’s a -12 loss since 2000.

The Bottom Line

We continue to focus on our strategy and the tactics to win 25 seats and take back the House. Our long term strategy is holding incumbent Republicans accountable for failing to create jobs, driving the economy to the brink of disaster, and voting to end Medicare and cut Social Security while protecting tax loopholes for big corporations and the ultra wealthy.


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