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Dede Scozzafava, Doug Hoffman, and the fight for Republican ‘purity’
What conservative infighting over a New York congressional seat says about the GOP's future
 

As David Frum writes in The Week's Bullpen, the Republican Party is mired in a bitter internal battle over an off-cycle congressional election in upstate New York. What should be "a cakewalk" for the Republicans now looks like a defeat as the party nominee, moderate Dede Scozzafava, loses supporters to Conservative Party candidate Douglas Hoffman. But this is about more than a single House seat, it’s about the ongoing debate within the GOP about how to reinvent the party. For Republicans, what is the choice on offer?

Purity vs. pragmatism: "It demonstrates just how right-wing some Republicans have become that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is on the moderate side of this civil war," says E.J. Dionne Jr. in The New Republic. Gingrich's "old nemesis" Dick Armey and his fellow tea-party conservatives think ideological purity comes first. But "Gingrich, who backs Dede Scozzafava, always understood that he would never have become speaker without help from Republican moderates."
"Who is us?"

Fighting vs. surrender: Why the Republican machine picked Dede Scozzafava as its candidate "eludes us," said the editors of National Review. "It may be too generous even to say that Ms. Scozzafava is a RINO—Republican in Name Only—" as she's squarely with the liberals on abortion, gay marriage, and just about everything else. But GOP officials can at least redeem themselves by leaving Douglas Hoffman alone and directing their fire at the Democrat, Bill Owens.
"On the right, an upstate upstart"

Fantasy vs. reality: Doug Hoffmann "fulfills a fantasy" for the right-wing purists who believe the problem with Republicans is that they sacrifice principles for expediency, says Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic. This crowd thinks Republicans just have to "act like true conservatives" and they'll win. They'll get a cold dose of reality if Hoffman loses, "which is more likely than not." But Hoffman will have accomplished one thing—turning the race into "a referendum on the future of the Republican Party."
"Doug Hoffmann: The next (unlikely) conservative superstar"

Possible rebirth vs. permanent minority: Doug Hoffman’s insurgent campaign is almost certain to deliver victory to the Democrats, says David Frum in his column in The Week's Bullpen. Then what? "If the Republicans pick up an Arkansas Senate seat and a dozen blue-dog Democratic House seats in 2010, you can see this 'tea party' mentality taking strong hold of the GOP in the run-up to 2012." But that means writing off the suburbs, the Northeast, and California, which isn't a formula for a national Republican majority. "It's a formula for a more coherent, better mobilized, but perpetually minority party."
"Prelude to Republican fratricide"

 

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