10:08 am Sep. 15, 2011
At the annual New York State G.O.P. dinner last night, which fortuitously fell the day after Republicans' biggest election win here in recent memory, local partisans took turns congratulating themselves on Bob Turner's victory, and on what they said was the party's bright future in New York.
"My friends, the Republican Party is back in New York state!" formerly embattled party chairman Ed Cox told a few hundred supporters in the banquet room of an upstairs ballroom at the Sheraton in Midtown Manhattan.
Cox was joined by his national counterpart, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, with whom he seems to enjoy better relations than he did with the previous national chair, Michael Steele. The two stood next to each other, smiling and chatting, at a press conference for Turner before the dinner.
Priebus told reporters that Turner was a model candidate, and that the party intends to field "people who are real, who are authentic, who are genuine, who want to serve this country with a pure heart and want to make a difference ... that is the direction we intend in the Republican Party across the country to take our candidates."
Turner himself contrasted his genuineness (which he is at pains to demonstrate at the moment) with that of David Weprin, in a back-handed defense of his Democratic opponent.
"This has been viewed as a referendum and indeed it has been, and I know that looking at the spin coming from the other side," he said. "A great burden has been put on my opponent, who has served his party for 12 years, won a number of elections, was hand-picked for this job and read the party script as directed. And he went down to defeat because of it. And they are blaming their messenger. That is not the case. This election will be unfelt by them, and a lesson unlearned, unless they look at the reality of this."
In a replay of Election Night, Turner was considerably more measured in his remarks than everyone around him.
"This was an absolute total repudiation by New York City voters of the policies of the Obama administration," Mississippi Governor and former R.N.C. chair Haley Barbour told the crowd. "Period. Period. And they can whistle past the graveyard and pretend this is some sort of fluke, but this is a fluke that started in 2009."
The Republican Party actually lost a couple of special elections in New York that year, but Barbour was referring to the elections of Republican governors in New Jersey and Virginia.
"We don’t know yet whether Bob’s victory is just a statement or a watershed," he said.
Barbour said he "believes in" New York, in part because he remembers Ronald Reagan carrying the state in 1980.
"What happened last night didn’t surprise me a bit," he said. "At the rate Barack Obama is going we’re going to be ready to carry New York in a presidential election again next year.”
(This is unlikely. The last time New York was close in a presidential election was in 1988, when Michael Dukakis won 52-48.)
Barbour, invoking Reagan, also tried to pre-empt the inevitable dissatisfaction with the party's presidential nominee.
“I know this: we’re going to nominate somebody who almost every one of you disagrees with on something,” he said, noting that there was too much talk of purity in the party ranks.
"But I also want to remind you, in politics, purity is a dead dog loser," he said. “Our goal is unity.”