With polls showing moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava in third place in the NY-23 special election, behind Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, she may have to deal with a label that is not often applied to major-party candidates -- that of the spoiler. But who, exactly, is she spoiling?
Prof. Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia posited an interesting hypothesis to me: That Scozzafava's remaining vote is not a conservative Republican base vote that would go to Hoffman, since voters on the right have already been coalescing around him, but she could actually be drawing more from the moderate Democrat Owens.
"Most people think of that as just a rock solid Republican vote, but who are those people?" Sabato said. "They're people who now know, for the most part, that Scozzafava is a liberal Republican. They get it. And a lot of them are really unhappy with Hoffman, so are they really gonna back Hoffman?"
As this idea goes -- and keep in mind that it's not a solid pronouncement, but simply an interpretation of the data as it stands now -- if the Republican continues to fall, it could end up helping the Democrat in a district that voted 52% for Barack Obama in 2008, and where a majority might find a Democrat preferable to the right-wing Conservative.