The results of Tuesday's election in New York's 9th Congressional District should be a warning to the president that he cannot afford to ignore. The district, which gave him 55% in the 2008 election, gave David Weprin, a Democratic New York City Councilman and State Assemblyman, only 46% of the vote against a 72-year-old retired Republican businessman, now Congressman-elect, Bob Turner.
Notwithstanding the fact that the district itself is not necessarily representative of the country as a whole, it is a district that was relatively close in its percentage for President Obama-- 55% in 2008, compared to the 53% that Obama got nationally.
Put another way, if Election Day 2012 were yesterday, the results in New York's 9th District combined with the results in Nevada's 2nd Congressional District suggest that President Obama would almost certainly not be reelected.
To be sure, it is not surprising that Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other leading Democrats are making the case that NY-9 is unrepresentative. Too many Orthodox Jews they say, too many urban Catholics, etc. That being said, the swing against a Democratic president in a district that has not gone Democratic in almost 100 years cannot be ignored or minimized.
I should know. I ran for Congress in parts of the district myself as an independent in 1983 and got about 29% of the vote against Gary Ackerman. The Republican, who ran a spirited race, got about 20% as well.
Put another way, most special elections in this political terrain give Republicans only a modest share of the vote. Fifty-four percent is in large measure a repudiation of the president generally, in terms of the economy. And in terms of his policies on Israel specifically, there is also the fact that Turner outright won the Jewish vote in the district against an Orthodox Jewish elected official whose family has a long record of service in the Queens part of the district.
But the election also says something profound about the American people-- something that has been missed in much of the commentary about the results today. Given that about 3 months ago, Rep. Kathy Hochul (R) also won a special election in upstate New York in a district that had not voted Democratic in 50 or 60 years, the electorate is making a very clear and unambiguous point: that they will swing back and forth depending on political circumstances in an unprecedented ways.
Put another way, to have a reliably Republican district go Democratic in the spring in reaction to the Ryan plan, and to have a reliably Democratic district go Republican in reaction to perceived failed policies of a Democratic president, suggests a level of volatility in the American electorate that is arguably unprecedented.
It is impossible to predict, of course, what will happen next year in the presidential race. But one thing is certain -- the electorate is angry. They are demanding change. And their voting behaviors suggest a desire, on some level, to throw the bums out.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and Fox News contributor. His most recent book is "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.