Palin Adds to GOP Candidate’s Woes in New York Special Election

Posted October 23, 2009 at 11:03am

Republican Dede Scozzafava’s special-election campaign took a one-two punch Thursday night: Hours after former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin announced she was endorsing Scozzafava’s third-party rival, her Democratic opponent reported outraising her 2 to 1. The squeeze from both sides has become the story of Scozzafava’s campaign, but the latest developments make her road to victory even tougher and raises questions about whether there is a point at which Republicans can no longer afford to push her candidacy.Palin’s endorsement of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman was the big news of the night, given the fact that Scozzafava’s fundraising struggles have been an open secret in the hotly contested race to succeed Republican Rep. John McHugh in New York’s 23rd district. Palin penned a note on Facebook, her preferred mode of communication these days, calling on her supporters to pitch in to help Hoffman.“It’s my honor to endorse Doug and to do what I can to help him win, including having my political action committee, SarahPAC, donate to his campaign the maximum contribution allowed by law,— Palin wrote. She also took a jab at the Republican Party establishment by lauding the fact that he has “not been anointed by any political machine.—Palin’s endorsement only further cements Hoffman’s standing as a national cause célèbre for the hard right, who claim Scozzafava is not a true Republican because of her backing of same-sex marriage and abortion rights and her ties to organized labor, among other criticisms. It should add to the online fundraising surge to his campaign, which says it has taken in more than $200,000 via the Web in the past week.That’s bad news for Scozzafava, who needs to hold off further defections from independent and Republican voters to remain competitive against Democrat Bill Owens. In the most recent poll from the liberal blog Daily Kos in conjunction with Research 2000, she trailed Owens by 5 points and led Hoffman by just 7. The margin of error was 4 points.Republicans say Scozzafava has picked up the fundraising pace in the past week after a disappointing but not disastrous report in which she raised $250,000 through Oct. 14. That ranked her last among the three candidates, though Hoffman’s $308,000 total included a $102,000 personal loan to his campaign. Owens, who has benefitted mightily from the Republican split, trumped both candidates with a $503,000 fundraising report, including $321,000 in individual contributions and another $171,000 from party and political action committees.Owens also reported three times the cash on hand as Scozzafava — $128,000 to $41,000 — and nearly twice Hoffman’s $73,000 in cash. He received a big boost from Democratic House Members, who contributed nearly all $161,000 he received in PAC money. Much of the GOP House leadership kicked in money to Scozzafava, who raised $104,000 from PACs, but only a handful of other Members donated. Scozzafava also received backing from labor unions, women’s advocacy and abortion rights groups, as well as local party officials and committees.The open question in the race going into the final week is whether Hoffman’s growing national profile will help him push past Scozzafava as the leading Republican alternative to Owens. The challenge third-party candidates often face in elections is convincing voters that a vote for them will not be a waste. The more legitimacy Hoffman receives through the backing of national figures such as Palin and Dick Armey, the former House Majority Leader and Tea Party organizer who endorsed Hoffman earlier this week, the more dangerous it is for Scozzafava.Asked whether the Republican Party, which has invested more than half a million dollars in the race already, can afford to continue dropping cash on the race if it looks like Scozzafava will lose, one GOP strategist with ties to the National Republican Congressional Committee replied, “You always have a choice.—The NRCC reported just $4.3 million in cash on hand at the end of September, the lowest of any of the national party committees.“The issue,— the strategist said, “becomes whether they think they’re flushing money down the toilet or whether she has an outside chance to win.—If Hoffman receives 20 percent or more of the vote, as he is polling now, Scozzafava’s path to victory is much harder, he said.The NRCC “can’t be in a situation where she loses by 1 to 3 points and they stop spending. That would be disaster,— the strategist added.