Now that Dede Scozzafava has dropped out of the special election in NY-23, the odds look pretty good for Doug Hoffman, even though Scozzafava’s Sunday endorsement of Owens adds a new wrinkle of uncertainty. And in any case it was always going to be the New Jersey governor’s race that I would be watching most closely. But I don’t think there’s any question that the New York special election is turning out to be the significant contest this cycle. And that will be the case regardless of who actually wins the race. After all, for Republican hardliners, the goal of this whole exercise was taking out Scozzafava. If Hoffman actually wins the race, that’s just icing on the cake.
Every non-hard-right congressional Republican will have this episode in mind going forward the next year — it will shape votes, positions on key issues. And what happened in this race will be the backdrop for every primary contest between a mainline and hard-right Republican this cycle — think particularly of the Crist/Rubio contest in Florida, which hard-right Republicans are already pointing to as the logical place to repeat the Scozzafava/Hoffman pattern.
This is the electoral equivalent of those brief moments earlier this year when prominent Republicans issued tepid criticisms of Rush Limbaugh only to be forced into craven apologies hours or days later. The hard-right of the GOP just got a much stronger lock on the institutional Republican party than it had before. And, let’s face it: the lock was pretty strong to start with.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.