NY23 now a litmus test for conservatives

This is one of those political phenomena that bubbles up out of nowhere to take the establishment by surprise.

How or why the party regulars in NY23 thought that Dede Scozzafava would be acceptable to anyone to the right of Karl Marx will forever remain a mystery. Even Nelson Rockefeller might have been on Hoffman's side in this battle, given the blatant, far left liberalism of the candidate. Rocky may have been a moderate -- but he was an eminently practical man and a superior politician to boot. No doubt he would have seen this revolt coming from a mile away and either sought to bend to the will of conservatives or distanced himself from someone like Scozzafava.

It hardly matters now. Those Republicans like New Gingrich and the Congressional GOP campaign wizards who thought they had a winner when they handpicked Scozzafava are now left stuttering in disbelief over the wave of support that has decimated their candidate and elevated Hoffman into a statistical dead heat with the Democratic candidate Bill Owens, leaving Dede trailing far behind.

The catalyst for this earthquake was none other than Sarah Palin who, not quite out of the blue but certainly showing a deft touch in political timing, endorsed Hoffman last week while the GOP establishment was still assuring everyone that Scozzafava was the cat's meow and would make a splendid Republican congressman.

Her support for Hoffman energized conservatives across the country -- delighted at the thought of sticking it to the GOP elites. Since her endorsement, Dick Armey and Fred Thompson have also come on board as well as johnny-come-lately Tim Pawlenty, who decided that if he wants to be president, he better show his conservative credentials by giving the nod to Hoffman. Few believe his sincerity.

The race has now become a litmus test for the right. And establishment Republicans don't even know what hit them yet. The race has accentuated the divide between ideologues and realists while the base -- and the local tea party movement that has been flogging Hoffman's candidacy from the start -- is demonstrating an intensity that probably frightens some of the elites while giving heart to others.

If this is the face of GOP reform -- bring it on.

There is nothing really remarkable about Hoffman -- except that he is more conservative than Scozzafava. And in a district that has been Republican for 100 years, he is a comfortable fit for most. He is a reasonable conservative who speaks a language the base can understand. And he should start giving lessons to the Beltway Brahmins who backed his opponent.

And Sarah Palin? Big, big winner. Whether she can translate this personal victory into political capital will be interesting to watch. And if there were any in the establishment who weren't taking her seriously before, I guarantee you that has now changed.

Hoffman may not win. Scozzafava refuses to drop out despite clear indications she's a loser. Splitting the GOP vote might hand the race to Owens -- temporarily. This is just a preview for the 2010 contest. And judging by Hoffman's strong showing, he would certainly be the odds on favorite to win a year from now.
This is one of those political phenomena that bubbles up out of nowhere to take the establishment by surprise.

How or why the party regulars in NY23 thought that Dede Scozzafava would be acceptable to anyone to the right of Karl Marx will forever remain a mystery. Even Nelson Rockefeller might have been on Hoffman's side in this battle, given the blatant, far left liberalism of the candidate. Rocky may have been a moderate -- but he was an eminently practical man and a superior politician to boot. No doubt he would have seen this revolt coming from a mile away and either sought to bend to the will of conservatives or distanced himself from someone like Scozzafava.

It hardly matters now. Those Republicans like New Gingrich and the Congressional GOP campaign wizards who thought they had a winner when they handpicked Scozzafava are now left stuttering in disbelief over the wave of support that has decimated their candidate and elevated Hoffman into a statistical dead heat with the Democratic candidate Bill Owens, leaving Dede trailing far behind.

The catalyst for this earthquake was none other than Sarah Palin who, not quite out of the blue but certainly showing a deft touch in political timing, endorsed Hoffman last week while the GOP establishment was still assuring everyone that Scozzafava was the cat's meow and would make a splendid Republican congressman.

Her support for Hoffman energized conservatives across the country -- delighted at the thought of sticking it to the GOP elites. Since her endorsement, Dick Armey and Fred Thompson have also come on board as well as johnny-come-lately Tim Pawlenty, who decided that if he wants to be president, he better show his conservative credentials by giving the nod to Hoffman. Few believe his sincerity.

The race has now become a litmus test for the right. And establishment Republicans don't even know what hit them yet. The race has accentuated the divide between ideologues and realists while the base -- and the local tea party movement that has been flogging Hoffman's candidacy from the start -- is demonstrating an intensity that probably frightens some of the elites while giving heart to others.

If this is the face of GOP reform -- bring it on.

There is nothing really remarkable about Hoffman -- except that he is more conservative than Scozzafava. And in a district that has been Republican for 100 years, he is a comfortable fit for most. He is a reasonable conservative who speaks a language the base can understand. And he should start giving lessons to the Beltway Brahmins who backed his opponent.

And Sarah Palin? Big, big winner. Whether she can translate this personal victory into political capital will be interesting to watch. And if there were any in the establishment who weren't taking her seriously before, I guarantee you that has now changed.

Hoffman may not win. Scozzafava refuses to drop out despite clear indications she's a loser. Splitting the GOP vote might hand the race to Owens -- temporarily. This is just a preview for the 2010 contest. And judging by Hoffman's strong showing, he would certainly be the odds on favorite to win a year from now.