Grassroots Claim a Hill in Republican Civil War

The congressional race in upstate New York has Glenn Beck populists overcoming GOP leaders

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When we last checked in on the Republican civil war raging in an upstate New York Congressional race, the split between official GOP candidate Dede Scozzafava and third-party Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman appeared likely to hand victory to Democrat Bill Owens. But now two polls show Hoffman leading the field by four and five points. His victory would be a watershed moment for the grassroots conservatives who spearheaded the backlash against Scozzafava and her GOP establishment backers (including Newt Gingrich). Hoffman and his backers have already sent a strong message to Republicans, and a victory would only prove that they're not afraid to scuttle the party in the name of ideology. Is this an internal revolution that will assure a more populist and popular GOP, or a sure-fire way to marginalize an already troubled party?

  • Parties Are a 'Suicide Pact'  Glenn Beck rebels against the idea of party loyalty as a "suicide pact" among Republicans. "You don't defer to the party because she has the best chance to win. You vote for a person you agree with most. And it doesn't matter what party they're in." Beck endorsed Hoffman. "Forget the system of the Republicans and Democrats. I'll vote for a Democrat in a heartbeat if they're a decent human being that gets it. Until someone in the system stands up to the system, I'm really not interested in playing the game," he said. "I don't care how little of a chance a person has to win. I am no longer going to throw my vote away by giving it to the party. I am going to look for somebody that believe in something, and I don't care what party they're in."
  • Grassroots Destroying GOP  Newt Gingrich told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren that Hoffman's anti-GOP conservative boosters don't know what they're doing. "And so this idea that we're suddenly going to establish litmus tests, and all across the country, we're going to purge the party of anybody who doesn't agree with us 100 percent -- that guarantees Obama's reelection. That guarantees Pelosi is Speaker for life. I mean, I think that is a very destructive model for the Republican Party," he said. "The conservative movement has gotten very excited about this race, I think largely on misinformation. I think if people looked at this issue of local leadership, local control, local involvement -- the money raised in the district is overwhelmingly going to Dede Scozzafava and is not going to the independent candidate. He's getting his money from outside the district and mostly outside the state."
  • Embracing Populist, Rightward Shift  Bill Kristol declares in the Washington Post that the GOP is rightly becoming more conservative. "The GOP is going to be pretty unapologetically conservative. There aren't going to be a lot of moderate Republican victories in intra-party skirmishes. And -- with the caveat that the political world can, of course, change quickly -- there will be a conservative Republican presidential nominee in 2012," he writes. "The lesson activists around the country will take from this is that a vigorous, even if somewhat irritated, conservative/populist message seems to be more effective in revitalizing the Republican Party."
  • Self-Marginalizing Conservatives  Washington Monthly's liberal blogger Steve Benen cheers on the conservatives pushing the GOP rightward, which he says helps Democrats. "It seems more interesting to note that, as Republicans have moved further and further to the right this year, their national support has deteriorated. Last week's Washington Post/ABC News poll found that only 19% of the public has confidence that congressional Republicans can make the right decisions for the country's future, and only 20% self-identify as Republican voters -- the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983. Also last week, a CNN poll found the Republican Party's favorable rating at lowest level in 11 years."
  • The Polls Could Be Wrong  The National Review endorsed Hoffman, but NR's Jim Geraghty "throw[s] a bit of cold water" on the polls showing Hoffman ahead. "The sample size is 366, putting the margin of error somewhere between 5 and 6 percent. In addition, I have a feeling that getting a good reading on turnout in a special election in a spread-out district is tougher than usual." Geraghty, however, reiterates his support for a Hoffman win.
  • Tea Party Isn't a Political Party  Politics Daily's Walter Shapiro wonders whether tea baggers have a real shot. "The tea-party movement is not a place to look for moderation, but it was striking how many Hoffman supporters I encountered who were more interested in registering a protest with the national Republican leadership (including Newt Gingrich, who endorsed Scozzafava) than in keeping the House seat out of Democratic hands." He says of the NY23 election, "it will play a role in driving the Republican Party further to the right. That may be a comfortable position for most Republicans. But it is a strange way to win back power in the Northeast, where the GOP currently holds exactly two House seats in New York and New England combined."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.