Battle Rages for New York House Seat

The battle for the New York House seat vacated by Republican John McHugh, who left to become Secretary of the Army, continues to attract the sort of national attention usually reserved for far larger contests.

A quick recap of where things stand: Over the weekend, moderate Republican candidate Dierdre Scozzafava pulled out of the race amid pressure from some in her party and polling suggesting she would finish third in the Republican-leaning district.

Her party, following the lead of Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty and some other national Republicans, then shifted its support to conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman (pictured at right). Scozzafava, however, backed Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate (left) amid lobbying from Democrats – and, as the Watertown Daily Times reports, she is also (sort of) campaigning for him.

The contest for New York's 23rd Congressional district is being cast, fairly or not, as a referendum on the future of the GOP. Among the questions being asked: Will moderate Republicans like Scozzafava have a place in the party? How much control does the party have over the so-called "tea party" activists who back Hoffman? And will a move toward dogmatic conservatism in relatively liberal states like New York result in Democrats picking up seats that have traditionally gone to Republicans?

Perhaps it's no surprise that both national Democrats and Republicans are thus making an extraordinary effort to win the race. This morning Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Watertown, New York to campaign for Owens; the Republican National Committee, meanwhile, released a radio ad backing Hoffman that includes the line "what we decide on Tuesday will echo from Albany to Washington."

"Whose side are you on?," an announcer asks in the spot. "The Pelosi/ Patterson tax and spend train wreck? Or do you believe in Republican conservative values, like thrift, personal responsibility, and family? Let's tell the liberals enough is enough. No more bailouts, taxes and budget busting spending. It's time to create jobs, with proven conservative ideas like lower taxes. Let your voice be heard, join the movement to bring real conservative change. Tell the politicians, no more, we won't let you bankrupt America. We need conservative leaders who stand up for our values. Fight Back! Vote conservative, it matters like never before." (Listen here.)

Even John Rich of the country music duo Big & Rich is weighing in: He'll be campaigning for Hoffman this evening, according to the Associated Press.

With the vote set for tomorrow, a new poll from Siena College (PDF) in New York shows Hoffman with a slim, five point lead in the upstate, rural district. With eighteen percent undecided, the contest is very much up in the air.

More Coverage of This Race:

GOP Ex-Candidate Backs Dem. in N.Y. Race
Running 3rd in N.Y. Race, GOP Candidate Drops Out
An Inside Look at Next Week's N.Y. Special Election
Off-Year Elections: Just Like Preseason Games
Palin Snubs Republican Candidate in House Race
Pawlenty Backs Conservative Doug Hoffman in N.Y. House Race