If you're a Democrat, it's hard to draw much solace from any aspect of last night's special election to replace former Representative Anthony Weiner, he of the bare-chested online photos and Twitter come-ons to women he didn’t know.
The bottom line was a 15-point swing for Democrats, flipping the seat in a district that encompasses parts of Brooklyn and Queens. No Republican has won there since 1920. Retired cable TV executive Bob Turner defeated Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin, who got only 46 percent of the vote to Turner's 54 percent. A little more than a year ago, Weiner received 61 percent of the votes while Turner got 39 percent.
Republicans have been quick to cast the election as a referendum on the presidency of Barack Obama. Judging by the latest polls, Obama may well be the target of voter disaffection, and Weprin -- who by all accounts ran an inept campaign -- was the punching bag. Weprin also paid a price for perceptions that Obama has equivocated in his support of Israel. The district is roughly 40 percent Jewish. In 2008, the district went for Obama by a margin of 11 percentage points.
Now maybe this is just a coincidence, but it's worth noting that in a closely watched New York special election in May, Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin in a solidly GOP district outside Buffalo. That election was held after the sitting congressman, Chris Lee, used a cell phone to snap a bare-chested photo of himself and post it online and used it to -- big surprise -- come on to women he didn’t know.
(James Greiff is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)