GOP: Political death by suicide.
GOP officials: We won't abandon Dede
By ALEX ISENSTADT | 10/25/09
The National Republican Congressional Committee remains committed to embattled GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava in the upstate New York House special election, even as many of the party's top names throw their support to Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman.
Two party officials tell POLITICO that the NRCC will continue to air TV ads propping up Scozzafava in the days leading up to the Nov. 3 contest and plans to keep up a near relentless barrage of press releases slamming Hoffman.
Scozzafava, a state assemblywoman who supports gay marriage, abortion rights and has a close relationship with leading labor officials in her region, has been the target of sustained criticism from conservatives who claim she is too liberal for them to support her candidacy.
Hoffman, an accounting executive, is attracting an ever-growing group of conservative backers, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) have also endorsed the third-party candidate.
Public and private polls have shown Hoffman gaining on Scozzafava but both trail the Democratic nominee, attorney Bill Owens.
For the NRCC, the decision to remain steadfast in support of the GOP nominee is premised on the belief that, despite Hoffman’s apparent momentum in the contest, Scozzafava remains the party’s best hope of holding the seat, which has been vacated by Republican Rep. John McHugh.
The NRCC plans to spend between $200,000 and $300,000 on TV ads in the final week-and-a-half of the campaign. The ads will focus on Owens and Scozzafava and will not mention Hoffman.
One GOP official, granted anonymity in order to discuss party strategy candidly, said that while a Republican victory remained far from certain, Scozzafava’s following in the North Country-based district made her a better bet to win the remaining batch of undecided voters than Hoffman, who despite his personal ties to the district is nevertheless a resident of Lake Placid in New York’s neighboring 20th District and cannot vote in the race.
“It’s all a geographic play,” the GOP official explained. “There is a path to victory.”
The official also noted that, as a Republican, Scozzafava would have a far larger base of support to tap into. As of April 1, voter registration in the district was 43 percent Republican, 31 percent Democrat and just 1 percent Conservative Party.
“I have yet to see a poll that shows a path to victory for the Conservative,” the official said. “They have no base.”
Asked why so many prominent Republicans had thrown their support to Hoffman, the official responded, “We’re dealing with data, not hopes and dreams.”
There are also doubts among GOP higher-ups that Hoffman has the campaign skills needed to hold off the Democratic onslaught, which this week is expected to include a heavy organized labor component.
The Conservative Party contender earned poor reviews in a Thursday meeting with the Watertown Daily Times editorial board.
In a Friday editorial, the paper wrote that Hoffman “showed no grasp of the bread-and-butter issues pertinent to district residents,” and that he was “unable to articulate clear positions on a number of matters specific to Northern New Yorkers rather than the national level campaign.”
The paper’s editors also complained that Hoffman had objected to their line of questioning in the interview and that Hoffman said he would have liked to have had a list of their questions ahead of time. In fact, the editors wrote, they had detailed their questions in that very morning’s paper.
Scozzafava, however, is coming off her toughest week of the campaign. Last Monday, she came under heavy criticism after reports circulated that her husband called the local police after a Weekly Standard reporter questioned her following an event. In recent days, numerous high-profile GOP figures have announced they cannot support her candidacy.
All the while, though, the NRCC has kept its fire trained on Hoffman and Owens.
On Thursday, after word of Hoffman’s rough editorial board meeting, the committee blasted out a press release saying, “Following his embarrassing appearance at an editorial board meeting where he showed a complete lack of knowledge on critical issues for New York, Doug Hoffman is proving by the minute why Republicans rejected him as a candidate in this race. It’s easy to see that Hoffman is not ready for the national stage, but apparently he’s not even capable of speaking on a local stage either.”
The Hoffman campaign shrugged off the NRCC’s criticism.
“The NRCC has to come to the realization the Dede Scozzafava is too liberal for the district. She’s dropping in the polls and they’re throwing out good money after bad in supporting her in the race,” said Rob Ryan, a Hoffman spokesman. Come Election Day, Doug Hoffman will win because he’s the real Republican in the race who stands for conservative principles.”