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Doug Hoffman’s campaign in upstate New York isn’t necessarily over.
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Op-ed pundits and tv talking heads portrayed the battle in the North Country as evidence of an intraparty schism, a Republican “civil war,” but in fact the ideological factor of right vs. center was less important than the uprising of the party’s rank and file against a GOP establishment that grassroots activists consider out of touch, politically inept, and hamstrung by favor-swapping among well-connected Republican insiders.
While ideology clearly played a role in this battle, not all of the Republican activists who backed Hoffman’s insurgency shared his hard-core conservative beliefs. One GOP Internet operative of libertarian leaning saw the lesson of the NY23 fight as a training exercise for the bigger battle in the 2010 midterm elections, comparing it to the way Web-savvy liberals lined up behind Howard Dean during the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries. “Right now, we’re where the Democrats were with Dean in 2003,” the Republican operative said, remarking on the left’s online advantage that the GOP has struggled to overcome. “We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet.”
Like Yates Walker and other young activists who worked on the Hoffman campaign, the candidate who fell short of a miraculous victory in November was encouraged by the strong support he received in the closing weeks of the NY23 race.
“It doesn’t have to end here….We’ve got to keep fighting,” Hoffman said the morning after the election, as he sat in his campaign headquarters greeting well-wishers who stopped by to encourage him to run again in 2010. One of his neighbors had told him to think of the 2009 campaign as “target practice,” and Hoffman smiled in amazement at what had transpired in recent days. “I’ve got Sarah Palin’s phone number,” he said.
The front door of the campaign office swung open and an old friend walked in to ask what she should do with her extra “Hoffman for Congress” yard signs. The candidate laughed and answered, “Save ‘em for next year.”
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