WASHINGTON -- Savoring the unlikeliest of victories, Republicans called their triumph in a New York City congressional race a repudiation of President Barack Obama's policies on the economy and Israel on Wednesday as public and private polls showed his approval ratings plummeting in a district he carried handily in 2008.
"We're not going to sugarcoat it, it was a tough loss," conceded the House Democratic Campaign Committee. Yet party officials and the White House insisted the race was not a referendum on the president as he seeks re-election with the economy stagnant and unemployment stuck at 9.1 percent.
In New York, Rep.-elect Bob Turner, outpolled state Assemblyman David Weprin in a light-turnout election. He will replace former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned in disgrace earlier this year in a sexting scandal. Represented by Democrats since the 1920s, the district includes portions of Brooklyn and Queens, is home to three times as many registered Democrats as Republicans and is nearly 40 percent Jewish.
Those district demographics customarily spell victory for a Democrat, but in a smattering of interviews on the day after the election, former Obama supporters gave voice to their changed feelings.
"Unfortunately the Democrats have let us down lately," said Anne Lenihan, 65, of Queens, who said she supported the president in 2008. "I'm disappointed in the Democrats and we need change."
Mark Russell, 37, a Democrat, said he didn't vote because he could not get excited about supporting Weprin, despite numerous calls from the Democratic get-out-the-vote operation.
"In 2008 I voted for Obama, and I made a big mistake then," said Kelly Redmond, 47, who cited the economy and the president's policy toward Israel as reasons for supporting Turner.
For all the struggle in the New York race, the district itself may disappear. The state loses two seats in the House as a result of the 2010 Census, and each party is expected to give up one.
When Weiner quit, Democrats signaled they were prepared to fold the district into another one even if Weprin had won.
Republicans now face a similar decision, knowing that Turner could have a difficult re-election in a district that may be redrawn to make it more favorable to Democrats.