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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Sunday, November 01, 2009


The big political news is in the NY-23 race where Republican establishment candidate Dede Scozzafava has "suspended her campaign" to let third party "conservative" Doug Hoffman have a chance at winning the seat. (NYTimes, Politico, everywhere...)

The conventional wisdom of the press seems to be that this demonstrates the strength of the "teaparty"/conservative side of the Republican party, and represents a press and a threat to all Republicans who face a rightist challenger, but I have a few other thoughts.

1) This really represents national attention coming in to impact a relatively small district race. Scozzafava was having trouble fundraising before the big national folks like Sarah Palin and FoxNews began to tell their followers to back/donate. "Teapartiers" from across the region had poured into the Hoffman camp giving thousands of volunteer hours of door knocking, phone banking, etc.

In effect, this was Scozzafava, a relatively weak local Republican candidate who received next to nothing from the national and state parties versus a "conservative" who received BIG money and support from the outside.

My point is that from a campaign resources standpoint, this wasn't a fair fight. To extrapolate this event to next year, when we have 460+ races is remarkably skewed punditry. There may be a few, or even a dozen races. where this machinery has an impact on Republican primaries, buy to think this represents a national powerhouse is to buy into the propaganda of the far right and miss the bigger picture.

The real effect won't be challenges across every district, but instead a soft pressure on Republicans not to be perceived as "moderate" enough to become one of the few national targets. So, it will have a pulling effect towards the right, but more from the "fear" of individual Republicans being targeted than a national movement of Doug Hoffman's.

2) Hoffman is Sarah Palin and "Joe the Plumber." Hr is a symbol to which this national rightist movement has attached. From some of the independent reporting I've seen, it sounds like Hoffman is actually a pretty crappy candidate with no local knowledge and a pretty jingoistic grasp of policy. His value to the right is more as a symbol than as an actual actor.

3) Given more time and money, I think it's a fair proposition that Scozzafava could have beaten this guy back. He caught a nationally backed wave that took him from 10% to 35% in just a couple of weeks. He "peaked" at just the right time.

So, my proposition is that NY-23 isn't some great conservative watershed, but instead a momentary spasm in the Republican party's civil war, a moment where the national crazies crashed down on a weak local candidate.

NY-23 is important only so much as the national Republicans think it is. It's impacts will be felt only to the degree that national Republicans fear their own right wing (which is pretty strong right now.)

To the establishment Republican candidates, NY-23 is a Halloween story told around a campfire. Now, it's up to them to see if they can sleep without having nightmares of "hook handed" teapartiers around every corner.

Later: Some mainstream Republicans in the district are pushing towards the Dem instead of Hoffman. (including Scozzafava who endorsed the Dem over Hoffman!!)


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