Rob Ryan's hoarse voice rumbled with laughter Tuesday afternoon as he reacted to reports that liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava had called police on a reporter who asked too many questions after her Monday speech.
"The only thing the police need to investigate in this race is if Dede Scozzafava is impersonating a Republican," Ryan said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Yet the media coordinator for New York congressional candidate Doug Hoffman was less jocular when discussing the Conservative Party campaign's most pressing need in the crucial 23rd District special election. "We need money and we need it now," he said. Fundraising has been "picking up every day," Ryan said, and the Hoffman campaign is "getting donations from across the country."
However, Hoffman is battling against major party candidates, with the national GOP spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for Scozzafava -- angering conservatives like Michelle Malkin -- while the Democratic Party pours cash into the campaign coffers of its candidate, Bill Owens.
With high-profile supporters including Fred Thompson, Dick Armey, Bill Kristol and the Club for Growth, the Hoffman campaign has become what John Gizzi of Human Events calls a "national conservative crusade."
Conservatives have had their eye on the Hoffman campaign for weeks, but now major national media are finally taking notice. "The race the nation should be watching is a special election in upstate New York," Newsweek magazine's David Graham wrote yesterday, saying the outcome would show "whether Democrats can hold on to voters who went for Obama in 2008."
The question that has puzzled conservatives for weeks is how someone as far left as Scozzafava -- who has in the past been supported by ACORN -- managed to get picked by the state GOP in this conservative district. Hoffman has said Republican "party bosses, the lords of the backroom, made this selection."
Online activist Michael Patrick Leahy similarly summarizes the process. "The nomination of Scozzafava was orchestrated by two powerful liberal members of the local Republican Party organization," Leahey wrote at TCOT Report, "and was aided and abetted by several politically inexperienced local county leaders who failed to grasp the tactical significance of shunning the Conservative Party and did not fully understand the details of their nominee's record, or her potential vulnerabilities."
Some observers consider it possible that Scozzafava will finish third in the Nov. 3 vote, which would be a sharp rebuke to the GOP leadership in Washington that twisted arms in a failed effort to get more Republican support for the party's liberal nominee.
The sprawling, rural 23rd District has in the past several elections voted by 2-to-1 margins for Rep. John McHugh, a Republican with a 74 percent rating from the American Conservative Union. Obama's appointment of McHugh as Secretary of the Army created the vacancy that will be filled by the only congressional election this fall.
In a three-way contest in this staunchly GOP district, Hoffman's strategists believe a plurality victory is clearly within their reach. Exactly how close they expect it to be was signaled yesterday, when the Hoffman campaign asked Obama to send Justice Department election monitors to the district. The campaign warned of the dangers of ACORN-related vote fraud highlighted by a recent upstate New York election.
"Hopefully, they're not going to steal the election from the voters of the 23rd District," Hoffman said in a telephone interview last night after a day of campaigning in Oneida, Oswego, and Watertown.
The most recent poll indicated a surge by Hoffman, who gained seven points in two weeks while Scozzafava lost six points. That poll showed the little-known Democratic candidate, Owens, with a narrow lead -- an angle that excited the national media -- although Hoffman's team says the real story is Scozzafava's collapsing support.
A major factor in the election is the free-market Club for Growth, which has weighed in with TV ads targeting Scozzafava's record in the New York state legislature. The group's latest ad pairs the Democratic and Republican candidates -- "Tired of choosing between two liberals?" -- and highlights Hoffman as "the common sense choice."
Some Hoffman supporters are hoping for an endorsement by Sarah Palin. For now, however, the campaign staff's key concern is to raise cash contributions for the final push. They will increasingly aim their fire on the Democrat, Owens, who got Barack Obama to attend a New York City fundraiser for his campaign last night.
"This election is going to be a referendum on two things," Ryan said in a telephone interview late last week. "First, it's going to be a referendum on the first 10 months of the Obama administration. And second, it's going to be a referendum on the future of the Republican Party."
NY-23: PREVIOUSLY IN THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR:
• Grudge Match October 19, 2009
• Video of New Ad for Doug Hoffman October 19, 2009
• Conservatives Ask, 'What Will Sarah Palin Do?' October 18, 2009
• Conservative Doug Hoffman: 'Citizen Who's Had Enough' October 16, 2009
• The Great RINO Hunt in Upstate New York October 16, 2009
• UPDATE: Conservative Hoffman Gains in N.Y. Special Election October 15, 2009
• Huckabee and Hoffman October 15, 2009
• The Importance of Doug Hoffman October 15, 2009
• RINO 'On the Run' in NY23 Special Election October 14, 2009
• Losing It Over Scozzafava October 8, 2009
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