Conservatives Rework Rhetoric After NY-23 Loss

By
Wednesday, November 04, 2009 at 6:45 am
Hoffman

Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman at his campaign headquarters Tuesday (David Weigel)

Saranac Lake, N.Y. – Jim Kelly walked into the lounge of the Hotel Saranac, his red tie undone and flapping against his shirt. He sighed. He plopped into a chair.

“Four thousand votes,” he said. “That couldn’t fill up one side of seats at Shea Stadium.”

[GOP]For two weeks back in the summer, Kelly had campaigned to be Conservative Party’s candidate in NY-23, the sprawling upstate district that opened up when Republican congressman John McHugh became Barack Obama’s secretary of the Army. Kelly dropped out when Doug Hoffman, a self-made millionaire and small businessman, decided to go for the party’s nomination. Things moved fast from there. In September, Hoffman won the support of the Club for Growth, the deep-pocketed 527 that typically funds conservative challengers inside, not outside, the GOP. That started an avalanche of support from conservative groups and politicians who spent half of their time backing Hoffman and the other half attacking Dede Scozzafava, a pro-abortion rights, pro-stimulus package assemblywoman who’d won the GOP nomination. On Saturday, when Scozzafava dropped out of the race, conservatives heralded a victory for their movement over the political establishment, and national Republican figures raced to support Hoffman.

Slightly before midnight on Tuesday, reality reared its ugly head. Hoffman lost to Democrat Bill Owens, who became the first member of his party to represent this region of New York in Congress since the 1870s. The margin when Hoffman conceded was slightly more than 4,000 votes. Nothing went right. Owens won his base in the northeastern part of the district, and he won or held his own in the parts of the district that Scozzafava–who endorsed Owens after leaving the race–represents in the assembly. Hoffman underperformed in the Syracuse, N.Y., suburbs that neither candidate had political ties to, even though polls had him leading by a 2-1 margin there.

It was a sour note in a night of mostly good news for Republicans. The party’s slate in Virginia, a state where it had lost ground for eight years, was so dominant that it pulled seven Republican candidates into the state House of Delegates. In New Jersey, where several election cycles had seen Republican leads collapse in the final days, former U.S. attorney Chris Christie handily defeated incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine. Conservatives rallied to overturn a same-sex marriage law in Maine, and Republican candidates won surprise, under-the-radar victories in local races in New York and Connecticut.

The problem for conservatives now is their definition of success, in the intoxicating run-up to the election, wasn’t based on a multi-state win. Instead, it was all about Hoffman.

“Hoffman is likely to win,” said Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, during a Monday appearance on Fox News. “This is a classic swing congressional district. If a conservative Republican can win in this district with all the disadvantages of the chaos on the Republican side and the official Republican candidate pulling out and endorsing the Democrat, what does that say to the moderate Democrats in the House?” As late as 10:13 on Tuesday night, the National Review writer Victor Davis Hanson referred to the Democrats’ “three candidates” who looked like they would go down to defeat in a referendum on Barack Obama. Two were defeated–one, Bill Owens, was not.

In the last, frantic 72 hours of the race, conservatives focused on NY-23 as an all-but-sure win for the unlikeliest of candidates, a conservative triumph that would put an exclamation point on a great Republican night. After a Monday night campaign appearance for Hoffman, Jeri Thompson told TWI that a victory for the Conservative “would mean the Blue Dog Democrats stiffen their spines and say ‘no way, there’s no way we’re going to vote for health care.’” In his campaign appearances on Monday and Tuesday, the preternaturally low-key Hoffman began predicting victory. Asked if Scozzafava’s endorsement of Owens would hurt him, he said he’d “win without her.” Asked about the implications of a possible win, Hoffman eschewed the typical “too soon to say” response and talked about what “this victory” would mean for conservative, low-tax and anti-spending values.

If Hoffman and staff were too optimistic, they had their reasons. In the final stretch of the campaign, they welcomed in a surge of anti-abortion and Tea Party activists who hit the streets to canvass and get out votes. On Election Day, the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List coordinated more than a hundred activists to hand out sample ballots at polling stations. And at polling places visited by TWI, turnout was just what Hoffman’s campaign hoped for–high in the right areas–and voters who chose either candidate picked up on aspects of his message.

“We need jobs,” said Pat Kubli, a Plattsburgh voter who went for Owens. “Right now there’s a lot of focus on business and not enough focus on the middle class.”

Gary Barber, a voter from Ausable Folks, said he connected with Hoffman’s rhetoric about the size of the national debt, even though he hoped Hoffman would steer money to stimulus projects in the district. “I’m not blaming Obama for everything,” said Barber. “He inherited this shit from Bush, but he’s continuing everything that Bush did, starting with the bailouts.”

The levels of enthusiasm in both campaigns seemed to give an advantage to Hoffman. While reporters swapped rumors about the trouble Owens was having in turning out votes, At the candidate’s Plattsburgh campaign office, Owens’s direct mail–showing the president right next to the congressional hopeful–was taped to the door, an out-and-out mockery of the Democrats’ strategy of capitalizing on the president’s popularity here. Inside, volunteers phone-banked under the cover of a giant “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and eight posters ripped from a calender of Ronald Reagan photos. One message the phone-bankers deployed: “Send a CPA to Congress!” Another message: “Send a message to Pelosi!”

All of that stoked the impression that Hoffman was headed for a win. On election night, national reporters from The Wall Street Journal and Politico who’d come to NY-23 to cover the race headed to Hoffman’s event in Saranac Lake instead of Owens’ event in Plattsburgh, about an hour away. The initial mood was infectious. “This is a real win,” said one Hoffman organizer in an email to conservative bloggers who were about to jump on a 9:30 p.m. conference call about the race. “This may be short and sweet. I hope to delivery the message of: Victory.”

But as the night dragged on, the mood got sour. Hoffman backers sat or stood glumly in a ballroom, watching local TV reports that never seemed to let Hoffman get above 45 percent of the vote. A heaping catering table remained mostly full as activists talked amongst themselves and offered scenarios for what might be going wrong.

“The unions came out for Owens after Dede went for him,” said Hank Ford, the Conservative Party chairman in St. Lawrence County. “She transferred all that. Plus, her husband is a union guy.”

Sandy Caligloire, one of several Hoffman spokesmen, suggested that the conservative push that got Scozzafava out of the race might have doomed Hoffman. “We were strategizing for a three-way election,” he shrugged.

As the activists talked and drank, Hoffman’s spokesman Rob Ryan worked the ballroom floor, talking to reporters about the inconclusiveness of early results and the meaning of outstanding absentee ballots. At one point, he got local reporters to avoid going along with a short-lived MSNBC call for Owens. But as the night went on, more and more Hoffman allies poured cold water on their candidate’s chances. Owens, who ran a subtle campaign, benefited from a long-term Democratic canvassing and GOTV effort. He had the backing of powerful unions like SEIU 1199, who worked the district. Hoffman didn’t have access to Republican resources until it was too late. Some Hoffman workers suggested that the conservative effort that did come out was inexperienced, and failed to make the extra step to really pull out voters.

Hours before the polls closed, Hoffman backers were echoing the pundits’ spin–this race would be a referendum on President Obama, and a victory for Hoffman would put the brakes on health care reform by making Democrats worry about challenges to their re-elections in 2010. As a Hoffman victory became more and more remote, the rhetoric changed. The message became the message of two weeks ago. This election wasn’t about showing Republicans that conservatives could win. It was about showing Republicans that they couldn’t win without conservatives.

“People are fed up,” said Saranac Lake activist Russ Finley. “The Tea Party people are serious. The 9/12 people are serious. I’d hate to say that a loss is a good thing, but this is a good thing.”

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Comments

29 Comments

dick
Comment posted November 4, 2009 @ 8:42 am

Thank God for teaparty activists. No way the Dems would have taken that district without their clumsy intervention.


uberVU - social comments
Trackback posted November 4, 2009 @ 8:43 am

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by TWI_news: Conservatives Rework Rhetoric After Loss in NY Special http://bit.ly/oNvoX...


bostondreams
Comment posted November 4, 2009 @ 8:45 am

Great piece. I noticed Red State is declaring it a victory. NOTHING is EVER bad news for them.


esarphie
Comment posted November 4, 2009 @ 10:17 am

Thank goodness for political missteps. I mean, without them our Congress might actually represent their constituents, and wouldn't that be a disaster!


jenzinoh
Comment posted November 4, 2009 @ 11:08 am

Let the spinning like whirling dervishes begin… The major GOP victories came in races where the candidates ran like… gasp… moderates! Christie even had an ad at one point WITH OBAMA IN IT!

But no… the chattering classes will do what they always do… they will draw completely the wrong conclusion from this and decide that the problem is that Hoffman wasn't conservative enough or something equally as stupid.


Noblesse Oblige » Blog Archive » Pyrrhic defeat for Social Conservatives in NY 23
Pingback posted November 4, 2009 @ 11:32 am

[...] here however; they will continue to make rationalizations. The Socon shills will try to tell us a loss is a win. They are all about noise and hysteria, like the aforementioned carny barkers they paint word [...]


lynnmcdaniel
Comment posted November 4, 2009 @ 11:58 am

Really? The Senators in this country better realize the reality of this race. A Democrat won in an area they have not win since 1870…and the teabaggers handed it to him. The Glen Becks and other mouth breathers need to go away. THAT'S what middle American has stated loudly with this election,


My Pure Diet. Health News & Supplements.
Pingback posted November 4, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

[...] support behind a candidate they found more acceptable than the Republican, and their guy lost. As activists from out of town flooded the district, shouting nonsense about ACORN and waving “…, imagining they’d already won, the Democrat turned out the vote and rode to victory on the [...]


Tweets that mention Conservatives Rework Rhetoric After Loss in NY Special « The Washington Independent -- Topsy.com
Pingback posted November 4, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by daveweigel, Jonathan Gitlin, Lisa De Pasquale, edditnyc, e mcmorris-santoro and others. e mcmorris-santoro said: RT @TWI_news: Conservatives Rework Rhetoric After Loss in NY Special http://bit.ly/oNvoX [...]


fred funk
Comment posted November 4, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

Bill Kristol is either an idiot or a Democratic plant.
How many time will this blathering chickenshit be allowed on the teevee to prognosticate with a 100% failure record? Why is this man repeatedly hauled out on the teevee and asked what he thinks? He's not his daddy – (he's really more of a momma's boy).
If you want to know how an election will go, expect the exact opposite of whatever this dimwit predicted to result.


davemartin7777
Comment posted November 4, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

Bill Kristol is an employee of Rupert Murdock.

“The Weekly Standard” is owned by Mr. Murdock as is “Fox News.”

Rupert recycles all his sockpuppets through his media properties without disclosing that they are all paid employees of Rupert Murdock.

Poor Rupert, he's having a hard time in controlling America's elections.

Another thing, Sarah Palin, who is a favorite among the Faux News/ Right-wing crowd is getting Rupert Murdock’s wingnut welfare.

Palin’s (Rupert Murdock’s ghostwriter) book publisher is HarperCollins… a wholly owned Rupert Murdock subsidiary, you ‘betcha.


Election reactions - Orange Punch - OCRegister.com
Pingback posted November 4, 2009 @ 7:53 pm

[...] here’s David Weigel on NY 23, Nate Silver on various races, conservative Ed Morrissey spinning, Chris Lawrence expressing NY 23 [...]


What Yesterday’s Elections Actually Mean For Barack Obama [Winners] « ThisGlobe.com
Pingback posted November 4, 2009 @ 11:14 pm

[...] support behind a candidate they found more acceptable than the Republican, and their guy lost. As activists from out of town flooded the district, shouting nonsense about ACORN and waving “…, imagining they’d already won, the Democrat turned out the vote and rode to victory on the [...]


Rashtrakut » Blog Archive » Spinning NY-23
Pingback posted November 5, 2009 @ 12:10 am

[...] Washington Independent has an interesting read on the emerging right-wing narrative to explain away the embarassing loss in NY-23, particularly amusing since they had convinced [...]


lordbasil
Comment posted November 5, 2009 @ 4:42 am

This loss was still a victory. It removed a RINO, and helped solidify the Republican Party as a conserative party of hard traditionalists.

No more porkulous packages.

No socialized medicine.

No promotion of homosexuality.

And no more evading constitutional requirements to hold office (got a birth certificate, Barry?)

One year from now, the conservative backlash will be astounding.

Liberalism has only one year to live. And by 2012, Barack Hussein Mohammed Obama will be swept out of power by a loyal christian American, Sarah Palin in a 50 state sweep.

Mark my words. Go to intrade and put money down on it, because you will be rich.


daveinboca
Comment posted November 5, 2009 @ 5:57 am

Deborah Feyerick of CNN had it right. Hoffmann came from zero-name recognition and single-digit poll numbers in the last month to almost pulling off a victory, losing by a whisker to a combo of a corrupt Repub RINO [who siphoned off the 5% Hoffmann needed to win] and a Dem Plattsburgh lawyer with 85% out-of-district funding. CNN isn't usually in the vanguard of political analysis, but Debbie got this one right. She noted that the Blue Dogs across the country will take another hard look because of Hoffmann's experience.

Nancy P. is suffering from advanced dementia, or perhaps botox side-effects, when she calls yesterday a win for Democrats. If she'd graduated from high school, she might have heard of a Pyhrric victory.


repsac3
Comment posted November 5, 2009 @ 6:42 am

These carpet-bagging conservatives and their bagger minions turned an almost certain loss into a win for the Dem in this race, and they seem ready and willing to do the same in races throughout the country in 2010 and beyond. It's fine to vote yer heart, but the further right their candidates get, the more votes they'll lose from the center… The more they purge the GOP of those they think aren't “pure” enough, the better it'll be for their opponents. It's a zero sum game, and like it or not, there ain't no trophies for “almost pulling off a victory.”


Jim Kelly
Comment posted November 5, 2009 @ 10:53 am

Dreams can still be obtained & are alive here in America. Americans are PROUD of our Doug Hoffman, a previously unknown 59-year-old accountant from Lake Placid — who attracted and united social and fiscal conservatives from across this country!

Doug took on the National & State GOP & the Dem Parties by standing on principles and fought the good fight across this country. God Bless Doug Hoffman for being a great American hero! (Just coming up short by 4,000 votes of the 131,262 votes that were cast)

Political media must understand that the State Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava was NOT a moderate as they have been writing but a Liberal far to the left of Bill Owens who was the Democrat on all fiscal & social issues.

Dede was selected as the GOP candidate NOT the people/voters but by the process of a backroom deal. To his credit, Owens simply had the ground troops Tuesday night from within the party to pull it off.

Jim Kelly – NY Conservative Campaigns & Activist


noisyrhysling
Comment posted November 5, 2009 @ 11:56 am

I have to disagree. A minimum of 30% of the district would have voted for a napkin if it was in the race as a Republican. Almost no one who would have voted for Owens switched to Hoffman when Scozzafava left the race, but apparently quite a few who would have voted for Scozzafava changed to Owens. In all likelyhood Scozzafava would have won, with every vote Hoffman got plus some that Owens got.

Hoffman didn't need name recognition in such a staunchly Republican area, he just needed to pull a few votes from the undecided column and that is where it all fell apart. Losing a district that is more than 50% Republican is a loss for Rebublicans/ win for Democrats. Hoffman did what no Republican in 100 years has managed, lose.


logicgrrl
Comment posted November 5, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

ROTFLMAO!!! You're so funny, unless you're serious, then you need to cut back on those meds you're on….


logicgrrl
Comment posted November 5, 2009 @ 3:21 pm

Oh puhleeze! Hoffman was a carpetbagger who didn't live in the district & couldn't answer questions about the district & he lost a seat that's been Republican since 1870! Also, calling Dede Scozzafava a liberal just because she's pro-choice & pro-gay rights? That just goes to show how far to the right the GOP has gone since “Mr. Conservative” himself, Barry Goldwater was ALSO pro-choice & pro-gay rights!


chrisjay
Comment posted November 5, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

This guy had more than zillions in out-of-state $$$: he had the full force of the rightwing noize-machine behind him (Beck was just the tip of that iceberg), his patrons predicted a Hoffman blow-out.
Sorry, can't spin this crash-n-burn.


logicgrrl
Comment posted November 5, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

Who would have thought that Caribou Barbie would be one of the Democrats' best weapons? LOL!!


Irish_Wake
Comment posted November 5, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

No, that's just Basil being Basil.

'Ignorance is strength' writ small.


Name
Comment posted November 10, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

What planet are you on? Hoffman didn't even live in the district and knew nothing about local issues. When interviewed by the local newspaper, he couldn't answer a single question and then stated that local issues were not important (?) — Mr. Hoffman was not qualified to represent the district. The fact that national Republican Conservative “personalities” decided to put their two cents in and decide that they didn't like the local party candidate did not go over well at all and the result of the election speaks to the fact that every election everywhere is not about Obama or his policies. The governors races in Virginia and New Jersey were far more complex than a simple win for Republicans. The exit polls showed that the voters were not voting based on their approval of Obama, but were voting based on state issues.


Name
Comment posted November 11, 2009 @ 12:46 am

What planet are you on? Hoffman didn't even live in the district and knew nothing about local issues. When interviewed by the local newspaper, he couldn't answer a single question and then stated that local issues were not important (?) — Mr. Hoffman was not qualified to represent the district. The fact that national Republican Conservative “personalities” decided to put their two cents in and decide that they didn't like the local party candidate did not go over well at all and the result of the election speaks to the fact that every election everywhere is not about Obama or his policies. The governors races in Virginia and New Jersey were far more complex than a simple win for Republicans. The exit polls showed that the voters were not voting based on their approval of Obama, but were voting based on state issues.


In NY-23, Anti-Immigrant Groups Proved They’re Out of Touch With the Mainstream…Yet Again « Reform Immigration For America
Pingback posted March 12, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

[...] amnesty and government handouts for illegal aliens” failed to turn out voters — Hoffman did worse than expected even in the parts of the district considered his [...]


4345630
Comment posted September 7, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

4345630 beers on the wall. sck was here


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