10/30/2009 12:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

NY-23, RINOs and "Tea Party" Candidates

BREAKING: Scozzafava suspends campaign. Divided party now unites. Demonstrates powerful appeal of right in Rep pty. What remains to be seen is if this appeal can win the general election. Amy Walters had a good catch at Hotline: Hoffman leading among independents. Thats good news for him. But other unknown is how Scozzafava's 20% split now. Are they loyal Reps or were they looking for more progressive issues and hence not likely to back Hoffman? With all attention on Rep split, has Owens given the district reason to back the Dem over a conservative? Fun!

NY-23 is the poster child for the conservative insurgency in Republican politics. What looked a few weeks ago to be a splintered party in NY-23 is looking more and more like a consensus developing in favor of the conservative candidate. If Scozzafava continues to collapse, Democrat Owens will no longer enjoy a fractured opposition but a united one.

Mark has posted extensively on the problem of polling in NY-23, so be sure to see his comprehensive post here. There are many problems with polling in this race, especially on the turnout side.

But setting those concerns aside for the moment, Hoffman's surge shows that an insurgency can succeed in winning over (so far) well over half of Republican voters. The string of Hoffman endorsements from Palin, Pawlenty, Pataki and others shows how seriously Republican leaders are taking conservative insurgents.

Given substantial investments in the NY-23 race by both party and independent groups, this might be seen as the best case for insurgents against the party establishment. The converse is that if Owens pulls it out, NY-23 will be a symbol of party fratricide. And if Scozzafava's support collapses, it will be a message of the power of party unity around conservative nominees.

I commented on this topic in a recent Christian Science Monitor story here, and spent a pleasant hour this morning discussing this and other insurgent challenges on Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardine show. The audio is available here. At the time of CSM interview, Hoffman had not yet surged, something we talk about in the audio link.

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