GOP's Beck-Limbaugh wing misreads Hoffman's loss in New York
The renewed effort to field staunch conservatives in competitive districts is sure to backfire.
In the wake of the strong showing by Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in Tuesday's special congressional election in New York, many Republicans are convinced that his near-win is an affirmation that the GOP should more actively support staunchly conservative nominees in races across the nation.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Yet, despite Mr. Hoffman's emergence, his showing is Pyrrhic and could have dire electoral consequences for the Republican Party.
When former Rep. John McHugh resigned to become secretary of the Army, local Republicans nominated Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava to fill the seat, as her moderation appeared a good fit for the upstate swing district. The Republican National Committee and the GOP House leadership got behind her candidacy.
However, numerous national leaders, including Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and scores of conservatives in Congress, unsatisfied with Ms. Scozzafava's stance on abortion, gay marriage, and other issues, bucked their leadership and coalesced around Hoffman. Combined with Scozzafava's miscues, this support almost carried him to victory.
Consequently, many conservative activists and bloggers are hailing Hoffman's campaign as evidence that the GOP should be moving faster to the right. That Scozzafava's late decision to drop out and endorse the Democrat helped seal Hoffman's close defeat is likely only to strengthen this resolve.
This belief could backfire in a big way because it fails to recognize – or willfully ignores – that a one-(strict)-size-fits-all political approach won't appeal to voters across diverse states and regions.
That the Republican Party would undergo some form of introspection after expansive losses last year was to be expected. What makes the party's rightward lurch so destructive is that its leadership is bereft of any centrist voices, as virtually every moderate Republican has retired, been defeated, or has switched parties. When policy stances are crafted by GOP congressional leaders, there are simply no moderate voices in the caucus room to give a different viewpoint.
There is no better illustration of this trend than the current composition of Congress. The Partisan Voting Index measures each congressional district's partisan lean, and, according to its numbers, there are just eight Republicans representing Democratic-leaning districts; conversely, 69 Democrats sit in GOP-leaning districts. At the start of the previous Congress, the split was 48 to14 for Democrats, and 28 to 25 in the prior one.