The Magazine

Dede's Losing, Call the Cops

A wild three-way race in upstate New York.

Nov 2, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 07 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Later in the day, Hoffman attends a local Rotary Club luncheon with about 60 people. "If you're looking for a smooth-talking fast-talking politician," he says, "I'm not your man." True enough. His is not an electrifying stump speech--NPR is a much better medium for him--but he does effectively explain the issues he's running on: opposition to card-check and cap and trade, a free-market approach to health care reform, and support for the war in Afghanistan. His campaign commercials tout his pro-life stance (the outgoing McHugh was solidly pro-life), but on the stump Hoffman doesn't usually bring up social issues.

Though Hoffman appears an attractive and viable alternative to Scozzafava--and one with the backing of influential conservatives like Fred Thompson and Sarah Palin and seemingly every grassroots political action committee--most of the Washington GOP establishment is backing the official Republican candidate. The RNC and National Republican Campaign Committee are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on her campaign, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich made the case for Scozzafava on a radio program last Thursday:

I would say to every Republican: You have a chance to elect somebody who has signed the no tax pledge. She's endorsed by the National Rifle Association. She is opposed to cap and trade and energy taxes. She is opposed to the Obama health plan, and, she will vote against Nancy Pelosi as speaker.

The problem with Gingrich's argument is that Scozzafava actually waffles on many of these issues. She won't say if her no-taxes pledge means she'd oppose a health care bill that raises taxes. She refuses, in fact, to say how she'd vote on a comprehensive health care bill. And this summer her husband was in discussions with Democratic leaders about her potentially running as a Democrat for the seat she is now seeking as a Republican. She may be the only candidate ever endorsed by both Newt Gingrich and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of the leftist website Daily Kos. He called her "actually the most liberal candidate in the race" and said, "It's official, I'm rooting for the Republican to win."

It's not clear why Republicans--or Democrats--would want her in their caucus. Last week, she held a horribly stage-managed campaign event outside of Doug Hoffman's office that was all about calling for more debates, even though she was the one who had declined Hoffman's offers to debate. Surrounded by sign-waving Hoffman supporters, the event was another embarrassment for Scozzafava and her supporters.

The race remains tight and the split between Scozzafava and Hoffman could very well deliver the seat to Owens--but maybe only for a year. Hoffman tells me he's "absolutely" committed to running for the seat in 2010 no matter who wins. "Depending on who wins" on November 3, he says, "I will run in the Republican primary and let the voters decide who's the true Republican for this district, or I will run as the only Republican."

John McCormack is deputy online editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.