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Democrats Lose NY Seat: Bellwether or Blip?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It was a crushing defeat for Democrats in a district that has three times as many registered Democrats as registered Republicans, and that has been in Democratic hands since 1923. But will David Weprin’s loss to Bob Turner in the special election to replace Anthony Weiner reverberate nationwide? And is it a referendum on President Obama or just a local case of low turnout and a weak candidate?

The answer often seems to depend upon which side of the political aisle you are on -- although some Democrats are more willing to express concern for President Obama’s chances in 2012 and see the special election as a grim warning sign, as do many Republicans.

Throughout the short campaign, Bob Turner and his supporters pounded the message that if he was victorious in the district, it would undoubtedly send a national message on economic and foreign policy issues.

However, some specific details suggest national Democrats shouldn’t worry too much about the loss: low turnout in some parts of the district, a weak gaffe-filled candidate who didn’t even live in the district, the district trending more conservative, and the fact that special congressional elections traditionally haven’t been national bellwethers in the House (this doesn’t take into account Republican Scott Brown’s surprising election to the Senate in Massachusetts the January before huge GOP wins in both houses of Congress).

In 2006, Republicans won special elections across the country but lost the House, while in 2010 Democrats won special elections and lost the House, something the Democratic Congressional Committee pointed out in its memo about the loss.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who held the seat for 18 years, said Wednesday in a conference call held by the Democratic National Committee that the election was “unusual” and “unique,” but it was not a referendum, pointing out the district is “among the most conservative” in New York City.

“The bottom line is it’s not a bellwether district,” Schumer said. “Anybody that tries to extrapolate between what’s happened in this district and what would happen in New York City, New York state or the country is making a big mistake.”

On Air Force One Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney tried to downplay the loss and said special elections are “unique,” and they don’t forecast regular elections well.

“Are Americans in general not happy with Washington?” Carney asked. “The answer is yes.”

He added that members of Congress from both parties that are up for election in 2012 need to focus on job creation.

It seems Republicans will continue to herald the victory as a bellwether and warning to the White House while Democrats will try to downplay the loss. But all of the issues involved in the race -- jobs, entitlement preservation and Middle East policy -- likely will continue to be pounded on the campaign trail from both sides of the aisle until November 2012.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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