The Republican party has taken a step that worries some of its members: it has decided to reduce the size of its "tent" and narrow its political tolerance. It pressured a more moderate candidate in an historically moderate upstate New York district to step out and leave the field to a movement conservative. Dede Scozzafava has left the race, urging her supporters to give their votes to Doug Hoffman. The issues? Gay rights, fiscal "liberalism," and (of course) abortion.
Result: all Republican party financial support goes to the movement conservative.
Prominent Republicans expressed concern that Ms. Scozzafava’s decision seemed likely to unsettle the party going into next year’s midterm elections, raising the prospect of more primaries against Republican candidates that they deem too moderate. Party leaders — including Mr. Steele and Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker — had argued that local parties should be permitted to pick candidates that most closely mirror the sentiments of the district, even if those candidates vary from Republican orthodoxy on some issues.
“This makes life more complicated from the standpoint of this: If we get into a cycle where every time one side loses, they run a third-party candidate, we’ll make Pelosi speaker for life and guarantee Obama’s re-election,” said Mr. Gingrich, who had endorsed Ms. Scozzafava.
“I felt very deeply that when you have all 11 county chairman voting for someone, that it wasn’t appropriate for me to come in and render my judgment,” he said. “I think we are going to get into a very difficult environment around the country if suddenly conservative leaders decide they are going to anoint people without regard to local primaries and local choices.”
Democrats have dropped the ball -- and continue to drop the ball -- on the matter of fiscal responsibility. Over a couple of decades at least, Democrats have been more fiscally responsible that Republicans. Since World War II, Eisenhower is the only Republican to leave us with a small surplus. The rest have dug us deep into the hole.
The left tends to cower and sulk when Republicans assert their ownership of the fiscal issue when they should, in fact, turn around and rub the pie in the face of an irresponsible Republican party.
Frank Rich has a similar take on the situation. He notes who has endorsed Hoffman (OMG: Palin, Beck, Santorum, Kristol and many more) and points out that the far right have even gone so far as to back a candidate who doesn't even live in the district he's running in.
And Hoffman as fiscal conservative?
Last week it turned out that Hoffman’s prime attribute to the radical right — as a take-no-prisoners fiscal conservative — was bogus. In fact he’s on the finance committee of a hospital that happily helped itself to a $479,000 federal earmark. Then again, without the federal government largess that the tea party crowd so deplores, New York’s 23rd would be a Siberia of joblessness. The biggest local employer is the pork-dependent military base, Fort Drum.
Rich's conclusion is that the Republican party is suicidal and that there's a possibility that some moderate Republicans in Hoffman's New York district will make it possible for the Democratic candidate to win.
But we're all ignoring the -- how many? 20%? fewer? -- Palin/Beck/tea baggers in our democracy for whom the word "democracy" itself is threatening.
Even if they're only a small group of tenaciously self-deceptive malcontents, they're not going away. No one has suggested -- no one within my hearing, anyway -- that these destructive, angry people need to be drawn away from psychopaths like Beck and Palin and given a chance to find their place in our democratic republic. Until we do that, they'll keep popping up in one form or another.
Nate Silver at 538 takes an unfevered look at what Scozzafava's withdrawal does to the numbers and concludes (warily):
... The reality is that a lot of Scozzafava's ex-supporters, many of whom don't like either Hoffman or Owens, simply won't vote. And some of them will still wind up casting their ballots for Scozzafava undaunted, as she'll still appear on the ballot and may have made herself something of a sympathetic figure. Certainly, it would seem to help Hoffman if Scozzafava decided to endorse him -- but only 15 percent of Scozzafava's voters had a favorable view of Hoffman, so they aren't going to come over easily, if at all. (EDIT: It's not clear if Scozzafava has in fact endorsed Hoffman, as the reporting is somewhat contradictory on this -- most sources, apart from the AP, say that she's made no endorsement.)
If I had to guess, I'd think that of Scozzafava's support, one-quarter of people don't vote, one-quarter vote for Scozzafava anyway, 30 percent defect to Hoffman and 20 percent defect to Owens. Extrapolating from the morning's Siena poll, that would produce a result of Hoffman 43, Owens 42, Scozzafava 5, with 10 percent of the voters still up for grabs.
Gun to my head? Sure, I'd take Hoffman at this point. But I'd also take the short side of the 67 percent odds that he's been given at Intrade.