In Upstate New York, Conservatives' 'Hill To Die On'

An internal GOP war over a three-way Congressional race could foretell the party's future

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A three-way Congressional race in upstate New York has become the stage for a national political battle between establishment Republicans and grassroots conservatives. The outcome could foretell the GOP's near future as it struggles to find itself. The National Republican Committee and party leaders such as as Newt Gingrich have officially endorsed Dede Scozzafava, a moderate Republican. But bloggers, grassroots organizers, and now party luminaries such as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann have lined up behind Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party nominee.

New York's 23rd district, Republican since 1971, may slip into Democratic hands as a result of the civil war: Scozzafava, once a shoe-in, has lost support to Hoffman. Polls now show Democrat Bill Owens in the lead. RedState blogger and editor Erick Erickson called the race "a Hill to Die On" for conservatives. If Scozzafava's slide continues and she loses, what will be the larger implication of the national fight that overtook this quiet district's race?

  • Tea Partiers Could Overwhelm GOP Conservative columnist David Frum cautions Republicans against drawing the wrong lessons. "From the New York experience, Republicans will be tempted to draw the lesson: Always nominate the more conservative candidate. And if the Republicans pick up an Arkansas Senate seat and a dozen blue-dog Democratic House seats in 2010, you can see this 'tea party' mentality taking strong hold of the GOP in the run-up to 2012. But a political formula that encourages Republicans to write off the suburbs, the Northeast, and California is not a formula for a national majority. It's a formula for a more coherent, better mobilized, but perpetually minority party."
  • Scozzafava Warning to GOP Conservative endorsement of Hoffman have mostly been threats to GOP leadership. "The Republicans once again have shot themselves in the right foot," the National Review writes. "The very least Republicans can do is to cease standing between Republican voters and the conservatives they desire to elect." The Wall Street Journal scoffs, "Above all, a defeat would teach Republicans that running candidates who believe in nothing will keep them in the minority for years to come." The Washington Times is horrified: "Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, House Minority Leader John Boehner and the National Republican Congressional Committee are now in the position of endorsing thugocracy. Unless they withdraw their endorsements and financial support for left-wing Republican Dede Scozzafava, they will effectively condone a blatant, unwarranted and somewhat frightening attack on a free press."
  • Who Really Runs The Party? Joe Gandelman of Moderate Voice worries that Republican leaders could be confusing the base with the coalition. "It would be an interesting development indeed if future historians learned that White House political strategists anticipated the havoc this would wreak in a Republican party where it is clearly the talk radio political culture which seeks to refine, define, and prune party leadership to those who are "real" conservatives against Republicans who feel that after the 2008 election losses the party needs to try and bring in other parts of America that might not hang on Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck's every word (or teardrop)."
  • Could Palin Turn It For Hoffman? Allahpundit thinks Conservative Party's Hoffman could not just split the vote but actually win. "I said a few weeks ago that 'Sarahcuda's only a clear asset on the trail in a red district where the base isn't turning out,' which makes NY-23 an almost perfect fit for her: Hoffman only wins if grassroots conservatives turn out in force and her endorsement is the surest way of making that happen," he writes. "For better or worse, some of her clout's on the line here too, especially now that The One's thrown in for the Democrat."
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