Surprising, if not shocking, news from the Watertown Daily Times this morning:
Dede Scozzafava, the Republican and Independence parties candidate, announced Saturday that she is suspending her campaign for the 23rd Congressional District and releasing all her supporters.
The state Assemblywoman has not thrown her support to either Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate, or Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate . . . Ms. Scozzafava told the Watertown Daily Times that Siena Research Institute poll numbers show her too far behind to catch up - and she lacks enough money to spend on advertising in the last three days to make a difference. Mr. Owens has support from 36 percent of likely voters in the poll, with Mr. Hoffman garnering 35 percent support. Ms. Scozzafava has support from 20 percent of those polled.
What Scozzafava's withdrawal means for Tuesday's election is hard to predict. You would generally anticipate that the endorsed Republican dropping out would help the remaining right-wing candidate, but there's a strong argument to be made that Scozzafava attracted a progressive slice of the electorate, running as she did sometimes to the left of Owens, and that her support will end up with the Democrat. I guess we'll see on Tuesday.
What's undeniable is that Scozzafava's decision saves the national GOP, and a number of prominent Republicans, a deeply uncomfortable election night. The NY-23 battle between Hoffman and Scozzafava had become a proxy war for the teabagger insurrection within the GOP, and the national Republicans who got caught on the wrong side of the know-nothing rebellion were surely dreading the images of their candidate getting crushed by a manic Hoffman. Some particularly ratty GOP types had already begun abandoning the ship, like California's odious Congressman Darrell Issa, who desperately "switched his support" to Hoffman yesterday.
So today Newt Gingrich and the other Scozzafava-endorsing muckety-mucks who lacked Issa's remarkable opportunistic streak can breathe a sigh of relief, as the rest of us wait to see how this last-second shakeup affects the campaign. One thing is for certain - the impact of the NY-23 saga on the fate of the GOP will have far more long-reaching effects than the simple question of who wins on Tuesday. The Republican establishment that at least pretended to speak to all Americans is deeply, deeply wounded, and a wild-eyed, exclusionist, birther religio-beast is taking its place.
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