The national Republican battle over the race to replace Secretary of the Army John McHugh in the House ratcheted up this week, with conservative icon (and former House ideological purity enforcer) Newt Gingrich injecting himself on behalf of Republican social moderate Dede Scozzafava.
Scozzafava’s chances are being hurt by massive national conservative support of her Conservative Party challenger Doug Hoffman, which is splitting the vote in her traditionally Republican district to put Democratic challenger Bill Owen slightly ahead in the polls. NY-23 went narrowly for Obama last year.
Gingrich, whose ’94 midterm “Contract with America” is credited with ending 40 years of Democratic control in the House, says that a Republican win in the special election could be the first shot of a new revolution. Despite her support of same-sex marriage and abortion, hot litmus-test issues for conservatives, Gingrich said Friday “Our best chance to put responsible and principled leaders in Washington starts here, with Dede Scozzafava.”
Predictably, Hoffman supporters were not at all happy about that.
New York conservative sachem Mike Long, who casts a long shadow over downstate Republican politics from the head of the Conservative Party, senses a backroom deal: “The price of the former speaker’s endorsement was: ‘Sign [Americans for Tax Reforms’ Taxpayers’ Protection Pledge] or we won’t endorse you.” The candidate had previously refused to sign the pledge, a project of Gingrich ally Grover Norquist, calling it a “stunt.” ATR has been running a Twitter campaign to try to get her to sign.
The Club for Growth, which regularly sponsors more-conservative challengers to Republican incumbents, is less forgiving. Executive Director David Keating questioned Gingrich’s conservative bona fides: “Gingrich does this all the time,” said Keating. “He does whatever the party committee asks him to. He likes to cultivate this image of being an innovator and a thinker and so on, and then he endorses the most tired, worn-out, special interest-genuflecting candidate you can possibly find.”
Rage kewpie Michelle Malkin is also appalled, and is calling for conservatives to demand back any money they’ve donated to Gingrich, the RNC, and the RNCC over their support of “ACORN-Friendly, Big Labor-Backing, Tax-and-Spend Radical in GOP Clothing” Scozzafava.
Bill Kristol is clearly stinging from a recent smackdown of conservative activists intervening in the race in Weekly Standard sister publication the Wall Street Journal. Kristol, whose last outsider political romance produced Sarah Palin’s vice presidential candidacy, says he doesn’t expect national Republicans to switch their endorsement, but he’s hoping they’ll quietly stop supporting the Republican candidate and let Hoffman insurge in peace.
Only 17 House Republicans have given money to Scozzafava, including most of House Republican leadership, with the notable exception of Conference Chair Mike Pence. Pence’s refusal to endorse the Republican candidate seems to be somewhat controversial among his peers.
Republican contrarian David Frum compares conservative support of the insurgent spoiler in NY-23 with conservative disapproval of the Daggett insurgency in NJ, and was, as usual, roundly ignored.
Keep in mind: all of this is over retaining what was formerly a safe Republican seat.
There is still a Democrat in the race. Obama’s raising money for him this week.