On the eve of the special election in New York's 23rd District, Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava unexpectedly dropped out of the race and ofered support to Democrat Bill Owens, who subsequently won the race over Conservative Party Candidate Doug Hoffman. Because of her last minute act of betrayal, top Republicans are considering stripping Scozzafava of her title, Minorty Leader Pro Tempore. Such actions would be similar to what the Democratic Party experienced last year when Senator Joe Lieberman endorsed Republican candidate Senator John McCain for the presidential election.
What I find interesting is not the perceived betrayal of Scozzafava against the GOP, but the betrayal of the GOP against Scozzafava. Sure, Scozzafava endorsed her rival when she could have endorsed another conservative candidate, but she didn't, and why should she? Prior to the election, she was supported by the some in the GOP, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, but internal divisions in the party are what caused the collapse of what would have been a win for the Republicans. Because of Scozzafava's support of pro-choice and gay marriage, as well as connections to organized labor and support of the stimulus, she was not deemed conservative enough, and so Hoffman rode in on his white horse to save the day, claiming to be the true conservative of the two, calling for Scozzafava to step aside and let him take the lead. Because Hoffman is a teabagger, he instantly got support from people such as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, as well as numerous other conservative organizations that are against various other "moral" issues, such as homosexual marriage, feminism, and abortion.
Prior to the election, the conservative vote was split with Scozzafava leading, but after her withdrawal from the race and backing of the Democrat, many of her votes had gone to Hoffman, although a Politico article emphasized the bump Scozzafava gave to Owens, but was it really significant? Considering the numbers before the election, Scozzafava started off with the lead, but with the growing number of endorsements for Hoffman, she quickly fell to second place, with Hoffman still in third. Owens meanwhile took the lead. Before the election, Owens had 33%, Scozzafava had 29%, and Hoffman had 23% of the vote, but that only accounts for 85% of the electorate, leaving 15% undecided. The election saw Owens with 49%, Hoffman with 46% and Scozzafava with 5%. Considering the combined totals of Scozzafava and Hoffman before and after the election, the conservative vote only lost 1% point, from 52% to 51%, while Owens picked up 16%, leaping from 33% to 49%. How many conservatives did Owens really steal? Do the math. If there were 15% undecided before the election and Owens had a 16% jump, it would be logical to say that while some Republicans (1%?) may have voted for Owens, the majority of his votes did not take away from the other two conservative candidates whose backers relatively stayed the same, and had Hoffman not run, the GOP would have an extra seat.
This simple point illustrates what is wrong with the Tea Party movement, as well as the Republican Party's surrender to the ultra conservatives. Ignoring the independent voters and focusing on shoring up the base will only give the election to the opposing party. The same pundits who criticized Scozzafava praised other elections where GOP candidates won, but in those instances, they did not campaign on the social issues like Hoffman did, but focused mostly on issues most Americans can relate to. If you look at Bob McDonnell's website, he outlined the issues of his campaign: jobs, education, higher education, transportation, environment, public safety, protecting families, 2nd amendment rights, government reform, taxes and spending, health care, more energy, more jobs, and veterans for McDonnell. Nowhere on his site does it explain the need to ban marriage or abortion, although he surely supports the ultra right's objectives. Just consider his college thesis where he accused working women, homosexuals, and "fornicators" in contributing to the degradation of society. McDonnell brushed off his thesis claiming he was a changed man and instead focused on the other issues, allowing McDonnell to win the election to become Governor of Virginia.
While the GOP may feel it is appropriate to punish Scozzafava, and I believe it is within their right for going against the party to support the opposition, the GOP should instead take an intropsective look as to why they lost the election. Maybe then, they would realize that the teabaggers who claim to be the true conservatives will help contribute to the implosion of the party. Sure there will be teabaggers who win some elections, but if the party puts their blinders on, then they will fail to realize the desires of the American electorate. The GOP needs to reign in the fringe elements of their party and give the voice of the Republicans back to the moderates.