November 4, 2009
by Michael Patrick Leahy
7:14 am est
As temperatures turned brisk this morning in NY 23, Republican turncoat Dede Scozzafava took comfort in the knowledge that revenge is a dish best served cold.
Analysis of last night's election results in which Democrat Bill Owens scored a surprising 50% to 45% victory over the Conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman, whose success forced her to withdraw on Saturday, showed that her Sunday endorsement of Owens was the decisive factor in his victory.
Owens carried the two biggest counties Scozzafava represents in the New York State Assembly (Jefferson and St. Lawrence) by a decisive 53% to 42% margin. This was an 11% margin increase from the 36% to 36% tie the Siena Poll released on Monday revealed. Scozzafava's vote dropped from 9% in the Monday poll to 6% in the actual results. Meanwhile, the 19% undecided in the three county region broke hard for Owens. 13% of the undecided went to Owens during a 48 period, while only 6% went to Hoffman.
Scozzafava's strenuous support of Owens during these critical hours was probably the most decisive factor in moving those undecideds. She recorded two robocalls, which were delivered throughout the district, and appeared with Owens at a local event.
One additional factor in Owens' strength in these counties was the endorsement of the local newspaper, the Watertown Daily Times, which came out in support of Owens Sunday morning after previously supporting Scozzafava. Indeed, it was the Sunday morning reporting by the Watertown Daily Times that Scozzafava was quietly telling friends to support Owens that signaled her dramatic public endorsement of him later that afternoon.
The Watertown Daily Times pounded Hoffman on his biggest weakness: lack of knowledge of local issues. That argument seemed to resonate with voters in Jefferson County and much of the rest of the district, apparently. Local constituent service had been one of Scozzafava's strengths, and while Democrat Owens had no greater background in local issues than Hoffman, Owens deftly emphasized local responsiveness as a theme, while Hoffman fumbled the local issues repeatedly.
Heavy spending by the Democratic National Committee in television and radio advertising supporting Owens, combined with a strong last minute on the ground push by the teachers' unions and AFL-CIO also contributed to Owens' victory. In contrast, the Hoffman campaign relied heavily on a slew of last minute robocalls, recorded by Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki, which were so numerous that many voters started complaining that they wanted to be left alone. Robocalls on Hoffman's behalf outnumbered those on Owens' behalf by a 3 to 1 factor at least, one insider estimated.
Hoffman's ground game was also weak. In Central New York, most of the energy of the campaign came from 9-12 activists, who ran a local operation largely without direction from the Candidate's Saranac Lake headquarters.
Hoffman also failed to mount much of a direct mail campaign, a critical misstep in a district where the voters had become very tired of the blare of television advertisements and robocalls from all three sides.
Grassroots activists saw a decided switch in the conduct of the campaign over the last 72 hours, after Scozzafava's withdrawal. Unconfirmed rumors abounded that Hoffman was taking advice from NRCC hotshots who had come up to help over the crucial last weekend, and that the candidate became less accessible to volunteers and was not conducting enough face to face voter events. Though his election day schedule was busy, for instance, his only public event on Monday was the Watertown rally hosted by Fred Thompson.
Dave Weigel, in today's Washington Independent, captured the boots on the
ground advantage Owens had over Hoffman.
"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 didnít 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."
Read the full article here.
New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long raised questions over the manner in which the Obama White House secured Scozzafava's decisive support on Saturday. Publicly, Long has asked for an Federal Elections Commission investigation of possible legal violations involved in reported personal meetings between a White House staff member and Scozzafava on the Saturday afternoon preceding her endorsement of Owens the following day. What, Long and others want to know, did the White House promise Scozzafava to secure her endorsement? Insiders are betting that before long Scozzafava will emerge with a job in the Obama Administration. When it's announced, questions of ethical and legal violations will certainly be raised, they promised.
For her part, Scozzafava's public statements about her decision making process to support Owens dripped with self pity and rationalizations, and showed her to be completely devoid of political principle. "Why didn't any Republican leaders call me after I dropped out?" she wondered publicly, ignoring the slew of gracious conciliatory statements made on Saturday by five local County Chairmen, Michelle Bachmann, and Sarah Palin. Scozzafava pointedly refused to return the phone calls made directly to her personal cell phone by this reporter, a known Republican who was an elected delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention committed to Mitt Romney.
Owens' victory is a victory for Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama as well. In his public statements, Owens has clearly stated that he will vote for whatever health care bill Pelosi rams through the House this session. Scozzafava's endorsement of Owens in light of this public support for the Pelosi-Obama agenda confirmed the complaints of the conservative blogosphere that she was a left winger all along.
Owens will face his next electoral challenge in November 2010. He is certain to face a strong Republican challenger. This time around, however, the candidate will not be chosen by the eleven county chairmen meeting in a pizza restaurant. A primary will be held on September 14, 2010.
Though he captured the country's attention with his humble nature, Hoffman ran such a poor campaign it is unlikely he would emerge as the Republican nominee in a primary, should he choose to run. Early on favorites include Franklin County legislator Paul Maroun, and Jefferson County former Wall Street wiz Matt Doheny, both of whom showed well in the July 2009 Republican candidate selection process.
Hoffman showed poorly in that process, ranking seventh or eighth out of nine candidates in the eyes of almost every county chairman.
Other local drama to come out of this election result: Will RINO Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, who also serves as Clinton County Republican Chairman, resign her county chair seat or be deposed ?
At a national level, Hoffman's surprising loss is certain to heighten a vicious internecine war between the Establishment Republicans in Washington and the insurgent conservative movement powered by the tea party activists. The NRCC and the RNC bet $ 1 million on a left wing candidate whose last minute betrayal proved the decisive factor in giving the Democrats this Congressional seat for the first time since the Civil War. And big name Republicans who are likely to seek the Republican Presidential nomination for the 2012 --Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee-- provided support to Hoffman that can at best be described as a day late and a dollar short.
The big national loser is Newt Gingrich, who repeatedly and shrilly misrepresented the degree to which Scozzafava had local Republican support.
The final November 1 Siena Poll can be seen here.
Click here to view earlier reports on Election Day activities in NY 23.
12:15 am est
A melodramatic campaign fit for a Shakespearean trilogy ended with yet another twist Tuesday evening when Democrat Bill Owens apparently squeaked out a surprising 49-46 victory over Conservative Doug Hoffman, with 78% of the precincts reporting. A Siena Poll released Monday morning showed Hoffman leading 41-36, with 18% undecided. Based on the results with 78% reporting, it appears that the undecided vote broke 3 to 1 for Owens over Hoffman, driven to Owens perhaps by an aggressive effort of support by embittered RINO turned Democrat endorser Dede Scozzafava.
At about 12:15 am est, Doug Hoffman conceded to Owens from his headquarters in Saranac Lake.
Michael Patrick Leahy is the Publisher of The TCOT Report and the author of Rules for Conservative
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