Monday, November 02, 2009

NY-23 a Test Case for 2010 Florida Senate Race [UPDATED]

No doubt about it, New York-23 has been a good-old-fashioned proxy war over the future of the GOP. It also sets the stage for an even bigger showdown in next year's Florida GOP Senate race:
... Right now, the power, the energy, the momentum — and the results — are on the side of the conservative activists.

The newest incarnation of confrontational conservatism — driven more by animosity toward government and Obama than by the social passions of the 1990s — has plenty of energy and bodies to turn out big crowds at tea party events, hijack congressional town hall meetings as it did in August and defeat a GOP-establishment-backed House candidate.

It also has leaders with louder microphones than those of House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky: former Alaska Gov.
Sarah Palin and her Facebook page, Rush Limbaugh and his radio show and Glenn Beck with his popular 5 p.m. slot on Fox News.


Make no mistake: There is a huge divide between the public rants of this activist wing and the private angst of party leaders in D.C.

Numerous GOP officials have told POLITICO they worry that the party has been hijacked by a noisy and powerful minority that will keep the GOP in a noisy and not-so-powerful minority for a long time.

It will be impossible for GOP leaders to make this case anytime soon. The trick, instead, will be to find common ground on running conservative candidates who appeal to activists but can also run campaigns not entirely predicated on the hardest edges of their conservatism.

The Virginia governor’s race, which will also be decided Tuesday, could be the prototype for this kind of compromise. Until then,
Charlie Crist should get ready for a rumble.
Should be an interesting ride.

UPDATE (3 November)
I'm not the only one who has used the "proxy war" metaphor and made a connection to the 2010 Senate race in Florida. NY-23: How Sarah Palin Stands to Win (and Charlie Crist Stands to Lose):
Much has been made over the special election in New York's 23rd Congressional District. For some, the attention might seem a bit much, given that it is merely one of 435 House seats.

In reality, this race is about much more than one House seat.

It is a proxy battle in the long-running war between establishment Republicans and grassroots conservatives. Although GOP candidate Dede Scozzafava endorsed the Democrat over Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, after quitting the race with three days to go, Hoffman looks poised to win.

One front in the battle over the heart and soul of the GOP is the 2012 presidential race, and the NY-23 drama is not without presidential implications. Sarah Palin's surprise endorsement of Hoffman helped elevate his visibility while also cementing her status as the favorite presidential candidate of the grassroots conservative "tea party" set. This designation might come in handy in, say, Iowa, if she decides to run for the GOP nomination.

I'm not alone in the notion that a congressional election endorsement in 2009 might impact a 2012 presidential run. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a man believed to have national aspirations of his own, subsequently joined Palin in backing Hoffman.


Another change seems to be that conservative bloggers have more clout than ever. The conservative blogosphere has long been accused of being a paper (or electronic) tiger, but bloggers such as Erick Erickson of RedState have forced the issue this year, and the GOP appears stronger, not weaker, as a result.

All of this, of course, would be pretty insignificant if NY-23 were merely a one-time phenomenon, but as I described earlier, this is actually a proxy battle for a larger war – one that continues to play out. If conservatives have their way, Dede Scozzafava is merely the first casualty of this war.

As I write this, conservatives are already planning to replicate their efforts in at least two U.S. Senate races – in California, where Chuck DeVore is challenging establishment candidate Carly Fiorina in the race to oust Barbara Boxer – and in Florida, where former House Speaker Marco Rubio is challenging Gov. Charlie Crist in the race to replace the retiring Mel Martinez.


Upon entering the Florida Senate race, Gov. Crist was immediately endorsed by the NRSC, despite the fact that Rubio, a popular Hispanic conservative, was already in the race. For a while, Crist seemed unbeatable, but he has recently begun to slide in the polls. As the St. Petersburg Times reported, "The bottom is falling out beneath Florida's once hugely popular governor." This prompted NBC's Chuck Todd to wonder on Twitter if Florida is the "Next stop for #ny23's nat'l Hoffman backers?"

As RedState's Erickson told me, "The establishment has now learned it can be beaten from within its own base . . . If the GOP wants to fight the base in California and Florida, game on."

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