Everyone and his brother (a particularly strange piece of slang I picked up from my childhood) has been offering spin to explain why on an election night so good for Republicans and conservatives, insurgent Conservative Doug Hoffman came up short against Democrat Bill Owens. I think that’s looking at it the wrong way: given the facts and observations provided by Michael Patrick Leahy, it’s fairly remarkable Hoffman came as close as he did.
I spot three major factors Leahy cites that determined the outcome. First:
Owens carried the two biggest counties Scozzafava represents in the New York State Assembly (Jefferson and St. Lawrence) by a decisive 53% to 42% margin. This was an 11% margin increase from the 36% to 36% tie the Siena Poll released on Monday revealed. Scozzafava’s vote dropped from 9% in the Monday poll to 6% in the actual results. Meanwhile, the 19% undecided in the three county region broke hard for Owens. 13% of the undecided went to Owens during a 48 period, while only 6% went to Hoffman.
Scozzafava’s strenuous support of Owens during these critical hours was probably the most decisive factor in moving those undecideds. She recorded two robocalls, which were delivered throughout the district, and appeared with Owens at a local event.
Second, and related:
The Watertown Daily Times pounded Hoffman on his biggest weakness: lack of knowledge of local issues. That argument seemed to resonate with voters in Jefferson County and much of the rest of the district, apparently. Local constituent service had been one of Scozzafava’s strengths, and while Democrat Owens had no greater background in local issues than Hoffman, Owens deftly emphasized local responsiveness as a theme, while Hoffman fumbled the local issues repeatedly.
And last but not least:
Hoffman’s ground game was also weak. In Central New York, most of the energy of the campaign came from 9-12 activists, who ran a local operation largely without direction from the Candidate’s Saranac Lake headquarters.
Hoffman also failed to mount much of a direct mail campaign, a critical misstep in a district where the voters had become very tired of the blare of television advertisements and robocalls from all three sides.
(H/T Rossputin) Human Events’ John Gizzi here notes the organized effectiveness of the labor unions, especially SEIU. Compared to Big Labor, the Tea Party / 9-12 crowd simply hasn’t developed the capable on-the-ground political experience yet.
Meanwhile, Roger Kimball at Pajamas Media refutes the notion that Hoffman simply was sunk by his social conservatism, taking the more nuanced approach of addressing the candidate’s own “heavy-handedness and public persona”. Perhaps, it’s a topic open to debate. But any credible analysis must address the trends and factors introduced by Leahy and Gizzi.
Other important reading on the topic? Erick Erickson’s diary at RedState, where he claims a moral victory that softens up the seat for a 2010 takeover by a stronger conservative candidate and sends a message to the national party.
Erick notes that party leadership should be purged (not an ideological purge of moderates from races where only moderates can win, but a demotion of those who believe that pouring national money to support a candidate Left-of-center on nearly every major issue is a productive and worthwhile strategy). An important distinction.