Post-Scozzafava: Who's In Charge At The GOP?
Who's got more juice within the GOP?: Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin? After the latest turn in an increasingly wacky New York congressional race, that debate's over. Earlier today, Dede Scozzafava, tired of being used as a pi?ata by other Republicans, suspended her campaign. For an energized conservative movement, this was an especially sweet moment.
Support for Scozzafava in a three-way race to represent New York 23rd Congressional District had dropped in recent weeks. She had been dunned repeatedly for taking moderate positions on issues like gay rights and abortion. Her ideological impurity infuriated right wing bloggers who derided her as an ideological phony. The subsequent groundswell benefited the Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, who also picked up endorsements from influential figures within the Republican establishment, including Palin and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. (Both of whom are talked about as possible nominees to run for president in 2012.) Just prior to dropping out, the latest poll put Scozzafava's support at just 20%.
A victory of principle over pragmatism? That's one way of looking at it. After Scozzafava put out her statement, Michelle Malkin mocked her as a "radical leftist." (This about a candidate who opposes cap and trade and `Obamacare and has received the backing of the National Rifle Association.)
In many ways, the NY 23rd has become a Rorschach test for Republicans nationally. The rhetoric served up by the likes of Malkin and her fellow travelers does wonders to fire up the base, who, after winning, are in a position to pursue their purge of the centrists. But would that improve the the party's appeal? New York Times' columnist David Brooks appearing on PBS Friday night, does not think so. He described the moment as part of a "race for the soul" of the Republican Party. Like other centrists, he now worries about the implications of allowing the purists to define the agenda.
"Scozzafava has a voting record which puts her at the exact middle of the political spectrum," he said. "And the question is: Can Republicans have a centrist and still be a Republican? Newt Gingrich thinks so. He thinks you need moderate Republicans. A lot of Republicans apparently don't think so."
And speaking of Gingrich, earlier this week he said conservative support for Hoffman had been a mistake. On Saturday, Gingrich threw his support behind Hoffman via a Twitter post. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who only a few days ago similarly backed Scozzafava, is now behind Hoffman.
Somewhere in Alaska, Palin has reason to exchange high fives with the First Dude. At least for now.
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