With the weekend looming, we had just one night to poll. (With the high level of religious Jewish voters, we couldn’t poll on Friday night or Saturday. So with just $2,000 in the bank, O’B ordered the second and last poll of the race. At 3 a.m. we emailed the results and then called him with the message, “You are tied at 42 percent.” He told Turner the next day at a news conference with Ed Koch.
Turner was winning Republicans and independents easily, while taking 21 percent of Democrats. We still needed more. We decided the final week would be all about winning those Democrats—they were heavily Jewish.
By this point, the Democrats were really sweating. The DCCC released a one page memo claiming to be a tracking poll with Weprin up 8 points. There was no question wording or real methodology, but they did use the memo to attack Turner on Social Security and Medicare and many in the media ran with it just because it came from the DCCC.
Despite the spin, they knew Weprin was in real trouble. They brought in hundreds of workers from outside the district. From our grassroots leaders on the ground, we had reports that some Jewish voters were unhappy Weprin had people knocking on doors on Shabbos and that he had not taken a firm stand against Obama’s approach to Israel.
We loaded the final week with rallies and phone messages, even employing Donald Trump as a surrogate. The real estate mogul did a press avail with Bob and the Democrats foolishly sent pickets, which ensured us even more coverage.
Koch was urging Democrats to send Obama a message and State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D), who happens to be Orthodox, made a key endorsement. Democrats were in panic mode. Over the last weekend, the Weprin camp, the DCCC and House Majority PAC dropped more than $1 million in media buys. But they made some serious errors.
The DCCC attacked Turner for favoring tax loopholes for corporate jets in an ad that showed a jet flying over the New York skyline—a big mistake so close to the 9/11 anniversary. O’Reilly instantly captured it and served it up for Hikind to call a news conference to have the ad pulled. The DCCC edited the ad and continued to run it, but the damage was done.
It ultimately came down to turnout. It would be Turner’s volunteers against the Queens and Brooklyn Democratic organizations and their national allies from Team Obama and the DCCC. Hundreds of volunteers would knock on doors and make personal phone calls all day on Election Day.
By 10 p.m., we already knew our plan had worked. As we tracked the returns, it was clear that we were well ahead of our goals. We were running even in Weprin’s base and racking up margins of 4 to 1 and 5 to 1 in districts dominated by Orthodox voters in Brooklyn. Turner won 54 percent to 46 percent.
Determination and a candidate with a message and passionate volunteers beat out money and traditional political organization. On September 13th, voters in NY-9 sent the president a message and Turner was their messenger.
John McLaughlin is the CEO and a partner at the Republican polling firm, McLaughlin & Associates.