Even More Lessons From New York 23
Analogizing races in politics is like eating pizza slices. Someone has too many; others are left hungry for at least one more slice.
The analog of NY-23 that comes to mind is the Florida GOP Senate primary, and this shows the promise and the limits of analogies. Like NY-23, conservatives have been protesting the GOP establishment's decision to rally around not-so-conservative but ostensibly popular Gov. Charlie Crist at the expense of challenger Marco Rubio. Rubio, like Hoffman, has been winning grassroots straw polls. Rubio, like Hoffman, has run as a populist conservative. Crist has some inherent vulnerabilities that, thanks to Rubio and to an aggressive Florida press corps, are beginning to be exploited. Similarities end, though: Rubio is a professional politician. He's crisper on the hustings. He knows the issues of the state. He's a plausible governor, having been mentored by Jeb Bush, Crist's predecessor. There are no third-party dynamics here, just a bunch of conservative activists who don't want Charlie Crist to be their senator. Late word from Florida tonight: Crist's popularity has dropped. The tag of "Empty Chair Charlie" -- referring to what pollster Tom Eldon calls his "uneventful" three years in office as well as, flirtatiously, to Crist's reputed intellectual fogginess.
Still, Rubio might be the first beneficiary of the Hoffman era of Republican politics -- an era that is inhospitable to moderate Republicans and to Republicans selected by the establishment.
One lesson that conservatives shouldn't take from the Hoffman example: running unprepared candidates who don't know their districts very well is the way to harness populace energy. That's not true. Hoffman is an exception; unless the GOP is prepared to descend into its Bush twilight anti-intellectualism again, they'll need to recruit smart candidates who, as one Florida GOPer says, can read the New York Times even though he disagrees with it. This is too serious a time for shallow candidates.
Also, as Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal notes, DeDe Scozzafava's supporters give President Obama a 64% approval rating. A lot of independent and Republican women will probably stay home in NY-23 on Tuesday.
In any event, the loud snapping sound you heard this morning was the skip of the stylus, as the sound we political analysts used to predict the future abruptly changed. Party committees -- beware!