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Is Race to Replace Anthony Weiner a Referendum on Obama?

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(FOREST HILLS, N.Y.) -- Tuesday’s election in New York’s 9th congressional district has Republican Bob Turner facing off against Democrat David Weprin, but on the campaign trail Monday in Queens, the words Obama and Israel were heard almost as much as Turner and Weprin.

The race to replace former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner is too close to call, with Republicans trying to frame the contest as a referendum on President Obama -- although turnout is usually low in a special election.

Weprin, a state assemblyman, campaigned at a senior center, held a rally at his Forest Hills headquarters and greeted voters at a subway stop, while Turner, a retired media executive, held a rally with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  At both events the issue of Israel, as well as the economy, was the focus of the candidates and their supporters.

Weprin is an Orthodox Jew, while Turner is an observant Catholic, and both groups are heavily represented in the district.  Despite being a heavily Democratic district, Israel has become one of the biggest issues in the race for Jewish voters who are upset at President Obama’s call to return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

Giuliani, standing with Turner outside the Forest Hills train station, spent a large portion of his comments talking about Israel.  He said a Turner victory would have the White House “thinking about a new policy with regard to the state of Israel.”

When asked if he was surprised that the issue had become such an important one in the race when his opponent is Jewish, Turner acknowledged that he and Weprin’s views on Israel are similar, but it’s about the president’s stance on Israel.

“It’s not about my position or his (Weprin) which are pretty identical, it’s the president’s position and if you are with the party or against it, simple as that and will this district, which is surprisingly overwhelmingly Democratic, will they go along with the president and be able to be taken for granted as it were or will they send this message of protest and dissatisfaction,” Turner told ABC News.

Giuliani did not hesitate to criticize Weprin, saying he has a “willingness to follow anything the Obama administration wants him to do or say” on the Israel issue.

At his rally, Weprin was flanked by City Council speaker Christine Quinn and Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., among other supporters.  They linked Turner with the Tea Party, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, and said Turner can’t be trusted to protect popular entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, adding that the race is about “preserving” those programs.

However, Israel was also a focus and Weprin made it clear that that he is a strong supporter, pointing out that he’s been there eight times and said Turner’s Israel advocacy is politically motivated.

In a Siena poll released Friday, Turner was leading Weprin among likely voters, with a 50-44 percent margin.  The same poll found 43 percent of voters approving Obama’s job performance while 54 percent disapproved.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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