Whose Side Are They On? The Big GOP Schism In NY-23

The NY-23 special election has led to a very interesting development: A whole lot of prominent Republicans are openly calling for the defeat of the moderate Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava, opting instead to back the Conservative Party’s Doug Hoffman, while just a few are sticking by the actual GOP candidate.

This race has put two former House GOP leaders on different sides, the NRA against the Club For Growth, and the House GOP leadership against its own back-benches.

The message being sent here is loud and clear: Republicans are not allowed to nominate moderate candidates. If they do, it won’t just be the grassroots activists and conservative bloggers who will complain — the big names will do it, too, and will set out to defeat that candidate, even if means the Democrats wins. As a prominent pro-life activist told me about the prospect of a Democratic victory, “It’s a shame that the Republican Party didn’t do a better job of selecting a candidate.”

Let’s look at the list of Republicans who are supporting Hoffman, and the ones supporting Scozzafava. Let’s start with Scozzafava’s backers — it’s a much shorter list.For Scozzafava

• Newt Gingrich is supporting Scozzafava as a Republican who can win, and advocating for the GOP to be a big tent — and attacking the maturity of Hoffman supporters: “We have to decide which business we are in. If we are in the business about feeling good about ourselves while our country gets crushed then I probably made the wrong decision.”

• The National Rifle Association supports Scozzafava — quite sensibly pointing to her solid pro-gun rights record in the state legislature, and her status as the only actual elected official in the race: “During your tenure in the New York Assembly, you have been a strong and consistent supporter of the Second Amendment. You are the only candidate in this special congressional election with a solid pro-gun legislative record.”

• As of a week ago, only 17 members of the House GOP had donated to Scozzafava’s campaign, with that group including members of the leadership such as Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), NRCC chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is in charge of candidate recruitment for 2010. Another member of the leadership, Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN), did not contribute.

• Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), a former head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, endorsed Scozzafava: “I am backing the only Republican in this race who can win and don’t want to lose this seat to Nancy Pelosi for a generation.”

• Rep. Peter King (R-NY), one of only two Republicans currently in the New York Congressional delegation, and decried the possibility of throwing the election: “A vote for either of her opponents is a vote for Nancy Pelosi and her far-left, radical agenda.”

For Hoffman

• Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), the 2008 GOP nominee for Vice President and a darling of the activist right, has become one of Hoffman’s newest supporters — and she’s bashing the GOP: “Unfortunately, the Republican Party today has decided to choose a candidate that more than blurs the lines, and there is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race. This is why Doug Hoffman is running on the Conservative Party’s ticket.”

• The Club For Growth has been an important Hoffman support base for several weeks now: “In fact, Scozzafava and Democrat Bill Owens both favor higher taxes, bigger government, and more spending, including President Obama’s failed ‘stimulus’ package and big labor’s odious ‘Card Check’ bill.”

• Steve Forbes has endorsed Hoffman, saying int he campaign’s press release: “Like Doug Hoffman, I’m a lifelong Republican. But principles matter. The Republican nominee does not stand for the principles of our party, and I urge Republicans to give their support and their vote to the one candidate who does – Doug Hoffman.”

• Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) has announced his support of Hoffman, saying that, “The Republican candidate has been in the process of disqualifying herself,” and that while he has never before endorsed a third-party candidate, “The Conservative has a better chance of winning.”

• Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has endorsed Hoffman. In her case it’s less from an ideological concern than a utilitarian one — she thinks Hoffman has a better chance of beating the Democrat than does Scozzafava. The polls haven’t been agreeing with her on that, though, so you have to wonder how much of her judgment here is base on seeing what she wants to see. She is the first sitting member of Congress to openly support Hoffman.

• Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) has endorsed Hoffman, calling him “real Republican” in the race. Just think about that — a former House GOP leader has disowned his party’s official candidate.

• Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who has previously sought the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, is also backing Hoffman and denouncing the regular GOP candidate: “I was elected statewide as secretary of state. Believe me, I know the corrupt influence labor-backed groups are on the ballot box. When I found out that Scozzafava had accepted ACORN’s endorsement in the past, I knew she was not the kind of Republican representative we need in Congress.”

• Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN), an ex-presidential candidate, is also behind Hoffman: “If ever there was an opportunity to send a message to Washington, to the Obama Administration and to the politicians who have made careers of ignoring the will of the people they represent. Running, as the Conservative Party candidate, in New York’s 23rd Congressional District, Doug Hoffman is doing just that.”

• FRC Action PAC, the electoral arm of the Family Research Council, is backing Hoffman and bashing Scozzafava: “The Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, is a pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage anti-business candidate. She has repeatedly said she would have voted for the stimulus bill, even after learning most if it has gone to wasteful projects. She also refuses to say she will not raise taxes and sees earmarks as ‘beneficial.’ Ms. Scozzafava is so liberal she has been endorsed by the founder of the Daily Kos – the first Republican he ever has backed.”

• The Washington Times declared Scozzafava unfit for office, after her campaign called the police against Weekly Standard reporter John McCormack for following her and asking questions: “This brazen use of police power to intimidate reporters is inexcusable. It alone disqualifies Ms. Scozzafava for office. It also indicts every major Republican who stays on her team.”

• The Wall Street Journal is hoping for a Hoffman win, but will openly accept a Democratic victory, too: “Above all, a defeat would teach Republicans that running candidates who believe in nothing will keep them in the minority for years to come.”

• National Review has endorsed Hoffman, and called upon the national GOP to stop supporting Scozzafava:

The National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee cannot reasonably be expected to reverse themselves and throw their support to a candidate running outside of the official party fold. But the situation, as it stands, is a disgrace. Here is a proposal: Let the Republican powers that be redeem themselves by concentrating their fire on the (official) Democrat in the race, Bill Owens, and let Ms. Scozzafava duke it out with Mr. Hoffman without their intervention. The very least Republicans can do is to cease standing between Republican voters and the conservatives they desire to elect.

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