I came to this conclusion some time ago, but I’m a little late to the party in publishing it, so it looks like I’m just jumping on the bandwagon. My bad.
A few months ago I blogged about why a RINO (Republican In Name Only) congressman, while often frustrating to conservatives, is still better than a Democrat, even a conservative DINO. Supporting a conservative sounding Democrat will backfire, and so will supporting an uncompetitive independent or third-party conservative “spoiler” when such draining of ordinarily Republican support from the Republican nominee allows the Democrat to win with a plurality. The statistics quoted in the post make the case.
Next week’s three-way special congressional election in New York pitting liberal Republican State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava against Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman for a seat vacated by a Republican has the attention of conservatives in general and the tea party movement in particular. Tea party people are challenging conservative but establishment Republicans to abandon the Republican nominee and support Conservative Hoffman. So are the Big 3 of conservative talk radio – Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, and St. Louis talker Dana Loesch. They are mercilessly attacking the Republican National Committee, its congressional campaign arm and revered national figures, like Newt Gingrich, who continue to support the liberal Republican nominee. Many other conservative but establishment Republicans, though, have broken ranks with the party hierarchy and endorsed Hoffman. These include Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Fred and Jerri Thompson, Steve Forbes, Dick Armey, Rick Santorum and Rep. Mike Pence, as well as St Louis’ Rep. Todd Akin and 3rd District candidate Ed Martin.
Gingrich, for his part, makes some valid points. In addition to reasoning like that in my earlier post, Newt notes that Scozzafava was the choice of the local Republican Party organization, not someone that the national party crammed down their throats. What business is it of outsiders to tell the congressional district whom to nominate? Especially in this down time for the party, it needs to appeal to both moderates and conservatives, not one at the expense of the other.
Another election next week, the New Jersey governor’s race, is a similar 3-way race, where a conservative independent threatens to drain enough support from Republican challenger Chris Christie to allow corrupt Democrat incumbent John Corzine to sneak back in with a plurality. That contest is a typical contest in which the independent candidacy only serves to spoil another candidacy. Christie is plenty conservative, especially for a blue state like New Jersey. Conservatives there should unite behind Republican Christie.
But the New York election is different – different enough to be an exception to the rule. First, Scozzafava makes other RINOs (like Olympia Snowe) look like Religious Right ideologues. ACORN and the left-wing Daily Kos actually endorsed her because she was more liberal than Democrat Owens, who is plenty liberal in his own right. Moreover, Conservative Hoffman is surging and has a genuine shot at winning. Recent polls show Scozzafava running a poor 3rd, double digits behind Hoffman and Owens, who are within the margin of error of each other.
It has happened in New York before. In 1970 Conservative Party candidate James Buckley won the U.S. Senate seat that had been held by Sen. Robert Kennedy at the time of his assassination, defeating appointed liberal Republican incumbent Charles Goodell and liberal Democrat challenger Richard Ottinger.
Here the worst case scenario is that Democrat Owens wins by a slim plurality, taking over a Republican-held seat (albeit by a Republican liberal enough to be appointed to a high position in the Obama Administration) and switching momentum to Democrats. But that isn’t as bad as it sounds. Owens would merely serve a partial term in a house already dominated by his party. 2010 is likely to be a strong Republican year in which the party can retakes its rightful seat, and do so with a nominee chosen by Republican voters in a primary, not handpicked by party hacks. That nominee would likely be conservative, probably Hoffman himself.
But the polls suggest that Hoffman has a real shot at winning (the best-case scenario) and Scozzafava does not. Ironically, Republican Scozzafava is now the spoiler.
I stand by my earlier post that it’s better to settle for a RINO than to hand the election to a Democrat, even a supposed DINO, and I disagree with the harsh attacks on Gingrich and others who stick with Scozzafava. But this is a rare exception to the rule. As Loesch says in her special web site devoted to this contest, it’s time to dump Dede.