What Did NY-23 Mean?

[Disclosure: I worked with the Doug Hoffman campaign. However, the views here are my own. I have not discussed this at all with the Hoffman campaign.]

The bottom line on NY-23:

  • Doug Hoffman just won the Republican Primary. The general election is next year.
  • There are two broken, corrupt, arrogant political parties we need to defeat.  We beat the Republican establishment in 2009.  We'll beat the Democratic Party in 2010.
  • NY-23 is not really about Conservatives VS Moderates.  It is about the Establishment VS the Movement.

What happened in NY-23:

For years, the conventional wisdom has been that blue state Republicans had to nominate a "not too hot, not too cold" candidate - what my friend Max Borders called a Keynesian political strategy of tweaking the policy variables until you get a candidate whose positions seem most appealing to the most people.  Like Keynesian economic tinkering, it all works very well....until some fundamental shift reveals the underlying artificiality, and it all falls apart.

Political parties gain power by standing for something appealing.  But when a party gains power, it loses definition.  Rather than standing for something appealing and well-defined, they try to stand for anything appealing enough to win.  But you can only tinker so much before you destroy the brand that people had elected, and then you become the minority again.

The minority is where Parties and movements go to be reborn.  There, they have to figure out who they are, and what their mission is.  You can't storm the castle until you're all facing the same direction and focused on the same goals.  Sometimes - as in NY-23 - that involves telling the establishment "Thank you, but our mission is in another castle" (If I might borrow political wisdom from Super Mario Bros).

The establishment GOP - the NY GOP, the NRCC, the RNC and a few prominent Republicans - got behind another establishment GOP type in Dede Scozzafava. In any other recent year, she would have sailed through.  Not in 2009.

The public - including moderates, libertarians and alienated Republicans - has grown much more nervous about Democratic governance.  The Tea Party movement is just one manifestation of the sparks that are flying, but it goes far deeper than that, and the establishment GOP has been oblivious to, or dismissive of, these sparks. With Dede Scozzafava, the establishment Republican Party threw gasoline on top of the sparks and a brushfire erupted.  The result was the quintessential "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" campaign of Doug Hoffman.

What NY-23 Is About

The story of NY-23 is not "conservatives beat moderates" or "conservative loses to Democrat".

The story of NY-23 is "the Right starts dismantling the Republican establishment."  This is about how the Republican Party is defined and who defines it.

Right now, the movement wants the Republican Party to be defined by opposition to big government. Gradually, as new leaders arise, we will demand that the Republican Party be defined by its own solutions, as well, but rebuilding is an incremental process. We can hammer out the policy agenda and the boundaries of the coalition later.

For now, our job is to disrupt the establishment GOP.  If we beat Democrats while we're at it, great. But the first priority is to fix the Drunk Party - the Living Dead establishment Republicans. They're history. They just don't know it yet.

NY-23 was the first shot in that war.  It was a direct hit.  Next year, we start storming the castle.

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Comments

A few comments

You're right -- as disappointed as I am that Hoffman lost, having Scozzafava win would have been a worse loss.

I don't ask for much: If the Republican candidate has at least one or two positions that seem conservative I can live with it. Dede had nothing. The NY GOP has gotten away for too long with having nothing.

(A brief parenthetical remark. Rush did not help. His vulgar remarks about beastiality and Rino's and Scozzafava did not pass unnoticed in our district. It was the content of a final newspaper editorial against Hoffman, and in a swing district that has a lot of traditional people (St. Lawrence County) it went against the grain. Scz's supporters broke late for the Democrat, and while it may not have been the only reason, it sure didn't help. Rush does too dang much of this, playing the bad boy who "really didn't say what you thought he said." He should stop it. He hurt the conservative this time, and someone who has his ear should tell him.)

Here, it's all moot anyway. The 23rd is going to disappear in the next reapportionment (which is why McHugh jumped to be Sec. of Army).

Tim W.

Henke's theory about NY-23 ignores the key question

The establishment GOP - the NY GOP, the NRCC, the RNC and a few prominent Republicans - got behind another establishment GOP type in Dede Scozzafava. In any other recent year, she would have sailed through.  Not in 2009.

Henke's nice little theory totally ignores the long term trend: why is it that the Republican party no longer is competitive in New York? After all, the GOP had 14 House Representatives as recently as 1994 including several staunch conservatives. Today all but *one* Republican is gone. I did an analysis on the 1996-2008 elections two weeks ago on Ironman's blog which suggested that the most conservative Reps in general "bit the dust" first whereas the moderates (Sherwood Boehlert, McHugh etc.) survived a little bit longer into the 21st century. Those vacant seats were won by moderate Democrats in the end.  And this trend started long before Obama. So much for the theory that "conservatives always win". 

 

The public - including moderates, libertarians and alienated Republicans - has grown much more nervous about Democratic governance.  The Tea Party movement is just one manifestation of the sparks that are flying, but it goes far deeper than that, and the establishment GOP has been oblivious to, or dismissive of, these sparks.

 

If moderate and libertarian New York voters are "nervous about Democratic governance", how come a Dem centrist candidate such as Owens still won in the end?? Apparently the local "Silent Majority" of NY-23 was not comfortable with Hoffman's rather insubstantial candidacy and his loud and angry out-of-state supporters (Armey, Limbaugh, Beck, Palin etc.). Could it be (scary thought, I know) that the American public is not as scared and angry as you think, particularly if and when the economy finally starts to improve again?

---

Henke is one of TNR's better and more open minded contributors, so i am a bit disappointed that he seems totally willing to drink the usual RedState.com kool-aid.

 

MARCU$

 

 

Let's go to the videotape about upstate Republicans

since I might be familiar with the genre.

Correct start point is the 2002 remap. At that point the legislature did an incumbent protection plan intended to corral as many upstate Dems into the 21st, 22nd and 28th District as possible. (They responded in kind downstate trying to pack Pete King's district with Republicans)

So we had R's in the 20th, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26, 27th and 29th District. We still hold the 26th. (Looking at the numbers in the '80's or '90's when Upstate had more districts is inaccurate; if people moved away you can;t elect a Republican to an eliminated district)

Here's how the seats were lost:

2004: 27th flips after moderate R Quinn retires. This was a district centered in the Buffalo area which had unexpectedly flipped R in the Perot 1992 year.   It had a rural county added in redistricting but still most of the seat was blue collar urban. In an open seat race the GOP lost it by a handful of votes.

2006: This was the big one. A perfect storm. Iraq, Mark Foley, Eliot Spitzer.

20th flips. John Sweeney is a reliable conservative. He also is a huge drinker and has a domestic violence scandal explode right before the election.  Hello Kirsten Gillibrand.

24th flips. Boehlert retires and the GOP thinks the local state senator from Utica is a likely winner. Nope.   Local Dem D.A. is just more popular. Plus NRCC hit ad backfires

Meanwhile we hold 25th, 26th and 29th by a thin thread.

2008: Obamamania and Wall Street Meltdown.

25th: Moderate Jim Walsh retires and the GOP's top choice bails from the race for health reasons. The Plan B is a rural county legislator and doesn't get it done in a district anchored in metro Syracuse.

29th: Randy Kuhl, a former state senator, is an underachieving conservative who muddled thorugh three terms failing to solidify a hold on the state's most consevative district. He's bounced in a district that McCain carried.

We hold the 26th because we ran a businessman to replace Tom Reynolds

2009: State legislator Jim Tedisco fails to regain the open 20th District because he waffles on issues.

and now, the Scozzafiasco.

If there's a common thread I can identify, it's that the NYS GOP ought to stop wasting its time nominating state and county legislators to try and hold or win back these House seats. And the losing incumbents didn't lose due to ideology; moreso personal weakness.  But's that's obviously not a hot button explanation so I doubt either the Left or Right will run with it.

 

Another look at NY congressional special elections 2004-09

> 2004: 27th flips after moderate R Quinn retires.[...] In an open seat race the GOP lost it by a handful of votes.

Comment: moderate Rep retires. Conservative challenger (Nancy Naples) loses to Dem who easily holds on to the seat four years later.

 

> 2006: 24th flips. Boehlert retires and the GOP thinks the local state senator from Utica is a likely winner. Nope.   Local Dem D.A. is just more popular.

Comment; Ok. moderate Rep retires. Moderate challenger (Randy Meier) loses to Dem.

 

> 2008: 25th: Moderate Jim Walsh retires and the GOP's top choice bails from the race for health reasons. The Plan B is a rural county legislator and doesn't get it done in a district anchored in metro Syracuse.

Comment: moderate Rep retires. Conservative challenger (Dale Sweetland) loses to Dem.

Additional comment: also lost NY 13th where conservative Rep Vito Fossella retires. Conservative challenger (Robert Straniere, endorsed by Grover Norquist and the National Right to Life PAC, among others) loses to Dem.

Add to this the fact that conservative Randy Kuhl (who successfully defended outspoken RINO Amo Houghton's vacant seat in 2004) also failed to defend a moderate GOP seat in 2008. And of course, there's this year's struggle in NY-23 where moderate McHugh's RINO replacement Scozzafava is upstaged by a conservative challenger who then loses the general election.

So the final score concerning lost open-seat elections in New York is: five moderates and one conservative retiree in 2004-09. The NY GOP tried to implement a rightward shift by recruiting four conservatives and just two moderates (the balance is 5:1 after "The Conservative Base" has had its say).  Only one conservative -- Kuhl -- is successful before quickly losing in 2008. In fairness, Tom Reynolds' vacant seat is still in Republican hands too. So the GOP is two for eight.

It seems obvious to me that the  "conservatives always win!" rule does not hold much water in New York. Yes, I know -- there are some valid excuses too. Personal scandals, NY GOP incompetence not related to ideology in any way etc.. But -- all things being equal -- it still seems like a good idea to focus on moderate pragmatism and local issues rather than ideological purity when choosing candidates for these kinds of districts.

 

MARCU$

Splitting the party doesn't work, either

See NY 13. Also the Dems had pretty good tail winds in '06 and '08; it was an inopportune time to swap out Congressmen

NY 27 was still a Dem seat; there just aren't enough R's in WNY to go around and it was going to be very hard to hold when Quinn left. And Randy Kuhl could have been confused with a wooden stump. 

Had the local GOP run anyone to Dede's right----even Will Barclay---the C's would have relented and the R's would have held the seat.  Basically, Marcus, the party lefties's (who've lost lots of elections) decided to push the envelope and this time the envelope pushed back.  

This is an argument against a Hoffman re-run; there might now be too much bad blood on the left side of the party and they could hijack the Independence Party or endorse Owens.  But Maroun or Doheny from the '09 field might want a go of it..

I'm pretty sure you are wrong here

Doug Hoffman just won the Republican Primary. The general election is next year.

I think you're very wrong here.  Hoffman is disliked by the actual party in NY, couldn't raise any money in NY, and proceeded to lose to the dem after sabotaging the NYGOP candidate and basically spitting on the locals.  There's no way he gets tapped for 2010 especially since he'll be a has-been in a sea of other candidates, rather than the great white hope of the conservatives.  He probably has a future in the talk show circuit but politically he's burnt toast.   

Most likely DeDe isn't going to be the nominee in 2010 but there's no way Hoffman will be.

NY-23 was an enormous tactical blunder by conservatives.

RE: I'm pretty sure you are wrong here

The TeaBaggers are just deluding themselves. So now the spin is that Republicans supposedly had to be shown they cannot win without conservatives, in which case NY-23 was a smashing success.... 

To me the main lesson seems to be that Republicans cannot win without  moderates / centrists. The NY House GOP caucus used to have quite a few of them that usually performed very well against Democrats. 

 

There are probably some districts in the South that are well suited for the sort of "conservative insurgency" that Henke, Ruffini, Erickson & co. have in mind. The Club for Growth et al might have wasted a lot of time and money by diverting their resources to some other place while allowing the NY GOP to do their own thing. Let's not forget that Hoffman reportedly promised to honor the candidate selection committee's decision, yet broke his promise when it dawned on him that Scozzafava was "too liberal". He should have verified her political record before accepting the terms and conditions in that case.

 

MARCU$

 

So now the spin is that

So now the spin is that Republicans supposedly had to be shown they cannot win without conservatives, in which case NY-23 was a smashing success....

As one who doesn't want the right to rule, I hope they continue that string of "successes." However, as one who see as effective conservative opposition as an indispensible part of our politics, I can't help but shake my head. All the teaagers and their Big Money did in NY23 is take a sure-win Republican district--one that had more recently been represented by a Whig party candidate than by a Democrat--and turn it over to the Democrats. That's what they did, and that's all they did. With that sort of strategy, they can sit back in their easy-chairs, counting their money and priding themselves on their ideological purity, while relegated to the status of permanent minority, on their way to becoming an irrelevant third party.

The idea of Hoffman being some sort of "rebel" is, honestly, hilarious, and the "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" comparison actively offensive, if we're to take it literally. Hoffman was, like the teabagger "movement" itself, a top-to-bottom fabrication. A paper fiction. A made-up candidate, running to represent a district in which he did not live, and about which he demonstrated no knowledge, and who, being unable to raise money in "his" district (or even his state) had to rely, for nearly every penny, on his own personal wealth, and on HUGE infusions of cash from right-wing orgs outside of the state. He was an experiment by the corporate-funded astroturfers behind the teabaggers. They'd learned that lots and lots of money can fabricate a "movement." Hoffman was their effort to fabricate a candidate. And the result--the ONLY one that matters--is that the Republicans lost a surefire seat, and the Democrats gained one.

There are no "rebels" in the Republican civil war, nothing counter-Establishment. There are just pragmatists vs. ideologues. Both sides are well-funded by Establishment Big Money interests, and one is never going to defeat the other, because, to win anything, you have to have a little of both.

All of that said, I am one who feels there should be clear differences between the parties, particularly given the extreme limitations already imposed by maintaining a two-party system, and I'd be sympathetic to conservatives who thought their candidates aren't conservative enough, if, in fact, that was ever really the case. For all the talk of "moderates" and "RINOs" on this and every other conservative site, you'd think this was some sort of national epidemic,  and the reason those who talk that way are regarded as reactionary nuts by just about everyone who is sane is because the portrait they paint of some moderate or even liberal Republican party elite that is always running moderates and liberals, instead of conservatives, bears no relationship to reality.

Even John McCain--lifetime conservative, with an 82.3% conservative rating from the ACU, and a fellow who had been Bush's strongest supporter in the Senate (voting with Bush, in some periods, 100% of the time)--was derided as a  "moderate" or "centrist" or "RINO." McCain can only be seriously portrayed that way by someone who is so ideologically sick that he probably belongs in a straight-jacket in a rubber room somewhere.

Where is this wave of "moderates" and "liberals" in the Republican party? You certainly don't find them in congress. Obama's stupid "stimulus" plan got the votes of a grand total of 2 Republicans. One--a party man for decades--was then driven out of the party. The other became the sole Republican in congress, to date, to sign on to ANY iteration of health-care reform at any stage of the process (and even then, she said she was only doing it to keep her hands in the process). Look at one of the more recent targets of the "purists," Lindsey Graham. The reactionary Family Research Council granted Graham their "True Blue Award," Americans for Tax Reform has named him "Hero of the Taxpayer," Graham has an 89.79% rating by the American Conservative Union, and is persistently ranked among their "Senate Standouts" (made up of the 20 most conservative Senators). He has more "honors" from similar right-wing orgs than can be easily counted. The notion that Lindsey Graham is some sort of RINO or moderate or "liberal" or anything other than a very rock-solidly conservative Republican says nothing about Graham and everything about the reactionary idiots who make such claims. The image we're given of the current political environment by the teabagger ideologists bears no resemblance to reality, and it's impossible to have any real sympathy for them, except as one might offer a mental defective.

where are the moderate Republicans?

Where is this wave of "moderates" and "liberals" in the Republican party?

I'll tell you where you find them.

You find them in people like John McCain who co-authored campaign finance "reform" that outlawed political speech, who supported cap-and-trade, and who wants to institute amnesty, i.e., subversion of the rule of law.

You find them in people like Lindsey Graham who does much the same as John McCain but who makes a habit of poking conservatives in the eye while doing so.

You find them in people like George Voinovich who votes against tax cuts (if there's one tie that should bind all Republicans, it's tax cuts!), EVEN voting against repealing the marriage penalty, and singlehandedly sabotaged John Bolton's nomination.

You find them in people like Charlie Crist who not only favored Obama's stimulus plan but also campaigned with Obama in favor of it.

Oh, and you find them in people like George W. Bush whose "compassionate conservatism" was an exercise in expanding the power of government in a very un-conservative manner.

I'll tell you where you find

I'll tell you where you find them.

You didn't manage that, but you did more than adequately prove my own point. Thanks.

You find them in people like John McCain who co-authored campaign finance "reform" that outlawed political speech, who supported cap-and-trade, and who wants to institute amnesty, i.e., subversion of the rule of law.

...

Oh, and you find them in people like George W. Bush whose "compassionate conservatism" was an exercise in expanding the power of government in a very un-conservative manner.

That's George W. Bush, who enjoyed the fanatical devotion of the right throughout his term--probably THE most popular president among conservatives in the history of polling.  The ABC/Washington Post poll asked respondents in January, as Bush was leaving, to offer an overall rating of his administration: A whopping  82% of conservative Republicans rated him a success; 53% "strongly."

Again, the garbage about Bush somehow not being conservative isn't even worth the bits wasted to transmit it. If Bush was anything other than a devout conservative, it would come as a complete shock to the American right.

Moving on to John McCain, he was crushed in the election because he was a Bush clone. He had a lifetime rating of 82.3% from the American Conservative Union, and, as Congressional Quarterly pointed out, McCain voted for Bush's position 90% of the time during Bush's first 7 1/2 years in office. In the year leading into the election, he was with Bush 95% of the time, making him Bush's top ally in the congress, and in the first half of 2008, he had voted with Bush 100% of the time.

Again, the suggestion that either was anything other than VERY conservative suggests a need for psych meds.

You find them in people like Lindsey Graham who does much the same as John McCain but who makes a habit of poking conservatives in the eye while doing so.

Lindsey Graham is even more conservative than McCain--his lifetime ACU rating is 89.79%, and they consistently rank him among their "Senate Standouts"--the 20 most conservative members of the Senate. He's gotten every sort of award from every sort of extreme right group imaginable, and, because he accepts the science, rather than the industry-funded ideology on global warming, he's suddenly not conservative enough for the cracked-chromosome right.

You find them in people like George Voinovich who votes against tax cuts (if there's one tie that should bind all Republicans, it's tax cuts!), EVEN voting against repealing the marriage penalty, and singlehandedly sabotaged John Bolton's nomination.

Voinovich looks more "moderate" compared to those others, but that only means 69.71% from the ACU--still well above any "moderate" mark. He's been a creature of the religious right, whose near-perfect score on the issues near and dear to the advocates of theocratic fascism (80%-100% rating by the Christian Coalition every year) is dragged down by some of his votes on tax matters. Not because he's "liberal," but because he's of the older school of conservatism that opposes deficits. Americans For Prosperity, one of the major corporate-backed groups behind the teabaggers, gives him a 71% rating. He has an 89% lifetime rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and usually scores between 85% and 90% with the NAM.

Again, nothing "moderate" about him, and he's leaving the Senate after this term, in any case.

To recap, you've entirely failed to produce the "wave of 'moderates' and 'liberals' in the Republican party," or to make seem any more sane the outlandish claims that they're everywhere, and being supported by the Republican "establishment" over conservatives. All you've revealed is your own lack of judgment, dictated by extreme right views that have no basis in reality.

growing government is conservative?

So you are telling me that support for Medicare Part D, or support for amnesty, or support for outlawing political speech, or support for bloated federal spending bills, or support for greater federal interventions in K-12 education, are now conservative positions?  With which principles of conservatism are they consistent?

Is a GOP Senate majority even theoretically possible w/o RINOS?

> So you are telling me that support for Medicare Part D, or support for amnesty,

> or support for outlawing political speech, or support for bloated federal spending bills,

>or support for greater federal interventions in K-12 education,

> are now conservative positions?

>  With which principles of conservatism are they consistent?

 

Well, how about NEOconservatism?? What planet have you been living on during the past nine years, Chemjeff? Very few of the positions that you mention about are automatically anathema to the WEEKLY STANDARD crowd, as long as they advance "national greatness" while instilling patriotic values. How many mainstream Republicans oppose "big government" defense spending by the way?

---

Anyway, I challenge you to find a plausible scenario where the country elects 51 Republican Senators -- *none* of which has an American Conservative Union rating of 82 or less! To my knowledge it has NEVER happened in modern history. People tend to forget but the relatively large GOP majorities of 1994-2006 would not have been possible without the relatively moderate presence of Jeffords, Specter, Chafee, Stevens, Coleman, DeWine, Domenici, John Warner, Gordon Smith etc. . 

 

MARCU$

Well, how about

Well, how about NEOconservatism?? What planet have you been living on during the past nine years, Chemjeff? Very few of the positions that you mention about are automatically anathema to the WEEKLY STANDARD crowd, as long as they advance "national greatness" while instilling patriotic values.

You don't have to go to the neocons to find conservative support for chemjeff's little list of heresies. Bush supported nearly all of them, and, as I've pointed out repeatedly, Bush had and maintained the overwhelming support of American conservatives. That doesn't mean those heresies are less than heresies from the theoretical conservatism that exists in chemjeff's head. It does, however, mean that conservatives supported these things, and/or didn't see them as even remotely heretical enough to excommunicate Bush, and/or didn't see them as important enough to matter. They certainly had no noticeable negative impact on Bush at any point. Bush's reign left the U.S. in ruins, and the ABC/Washington Post poll in January revealed that 82% of conservative Republicans rated his overall administration as a success, 53% "strongly." Chemjeff's entire "point" in raising those heresies was to argue that conservatives could NEVER support such things; the numbers show the exact opposite.

Anyway, I challenge you to find a plausible scenario where the country elects 51 Republican Senators -- *none* of which has an American Conservative Union rating of 82 or less! To my knowledge it has NEVER happened in modern history.

Chemjeff thinks the threshold has to be much higher than that for it to be "conservative." He has forcefully argued that John McCain, who has an 82.3% conservative rating by the ACU, is some sort of "moderate" or "RINO" or even a "liberal."

 Overall, 68 percent of

 Overall, 68 percent of Republicans approve of the job the president did, but partisan views on Bush are further split by ideology. Among conservative Republicans, he is a resounding success: 82 percent approve, 53 percent strongly. But moderate and liberal GOPers have a more tepid take. Just over half (52 percent) approve, only about a quarter (26 percent) do so strongly.

That's from the WaPo, January, 2009. Further down they give this break out:

Bush Approval, after one year in office vs. final assessment:

  • Conservative Republicans - 100% vs. 82%
  • Moderate Republicans - 97% vs. 52%

And that was after the Bush Administration had tanked the economy and bailed out the banks! (Yes, as a reminder, TARP was a Bush Act, Obama had nothing to do with it).

Translation: the more "conservative" you are, the more unable to recognize and deal with reality you are.

So, putting the uber conservatives in charge of the party? Not a genius move.

 

I'm with Marcus on this one

Jon, I know you were on the ground and I wasn't within 500 miles, but I agree with Marcus.  it looked an awful lot to me like a reasonable Democrat running against revenge-seeking Beck/Limbaugh zealots.  That may be fine in Alabama, but this is New York.

NY-23 should serve - as Marcus said - as a lesson to conservatives, NOT moderates. You had a campaign decided by local people based upon conditions that sort of freaked them out - a bunch of outsiders, many of whom they do not like, coming in to help a candidate who was clueless when it came to local issues but had the time to grant a multitude of national media interviews.  Meanwhile, the Dem was steady, smart and local.

Look - conservatives are the heart and soul of the GOP right now, but the right to govern goes to the man with the biggest... coalition.  There was nothing about the Hoffman campaign that indicated that he was building a coalition - unless it was a coalition of Limbaugh/Beck/Hannity listeners.  And there is nothing about Jon Henke's post that indicates he's willing to build the coalition the GOP needs to have electoral success.  Rail all you want against the "GOP establishment", but we are heading rapidly toward national permanent minority status unless we sack up and realize that we need moderates on our side if we ever want to govern this nation again.

I hope Doug Hoffmann is not the nominee next year - or we are sure to lose.  We need a nominee that appeals to a center-right COALITION - and not merely the hard GOP base.

We would be best to look at VA for our template.  There you had a conservative with a personable demeanor and who did not court the attention of nor play to the fear and loathing that is so present in the conservative movement today - and, as such, did not freak out the middle.  McDonnell waged a smart, even-keeled campaign that had broad-based appeal despite its clear conservative message.  Let's copy and paste that nationwide next year.

the moderates!

we are heading rapidly toward national permanent minority status unless we sack up and realize that we need moderates on our side if we ever want to govern this nation again.

You are of course right, there aren't enough hard core conservatives to win nationwide elections.  We need moderates, but there's different ways to get moderates to vote for us.  We can either dump our principles and sell out to whatever will garner us the most votes, or we can persuade the mushy middle to come on over to our side.  The establishment GOP strategy of late has been more of the former than of the latter.  To the extent that persuasion involves not just wonkish policy proposals but also excitement, enthusiasm, a sense that our side is "the" side to be on, a sense that our side is the side where all the energy is, then NY-23 showed that we are being persuasive with pulling moderates to our side.  Now we do need to do better in presenting a clear vision of what we would do differently than the Democrats, but we definitely have the enthusiasm and the excitement heading forward.  Besides, the sellout strategy only works for so long - after a while people realize you're just faking it.

RE: the moderates!

... We can either dump our principles and sell out to whatever will garner us the most votes, or we can persuade the mushy middle to come on over to our side.  The establishment GOP strategy of late has been more of the former than of the latter.

 

Chemjeff, I think the most pragmatic route is to persuade the "mushy middle" in truly conservative districts (where, incidentally, the "shock tactics" of Glen Beck et al might not be automatic disqualifiers) while pragmatism at all costs ought to rule in places such as New York.   If elected, Scozzafava's votes only have accounted for less than 1/220th of the Republican majority anyway...was it REALLY necessary to make so much noise about her candidacy?

I think the GOP's main problem is it has a smaller but more homogenous coalition of mostly like-minded people. Liberal democrats know they have to persuade lots of centrists/independents and all kinds of minorities to support their policies. Conservatives don't have this problem since the starting point is that roughly 40% of the American electorate favors conservative policies, but there is also a tendency to impose ideological purity and party discipline. 

 

MARCU$

 

Scozzaflava

If elected, Scozzafava's votes only have accounted for less than 1/220th of the Republican majority anyway...was it REALLY necessary to make so much noise about her candidacy?

Yes, because (1) she's not a conservative and (2) we have nothing to lose.  I am tired of RINOs.   This is the GOP's wakeup call - you cannot take us conservatives for granted.  We sent a message.  That was the point.

Obviously you did have somethig to lose

you lost control of a congressional seat.  Hence the GOP has one less vote in congress.  Seeing as how the GOP is down to 217 seats total (out of 535 in congress) any more losses are pretty bad.

 

Even one house seat, particularly one that would have been easy to hold if conservatives hadn't insisted on screwing the pooch.

The moderates torpedoed the conservative...

...by running a campaign against Hoffman, keeping a Republican on the ballot & Scoz endorsing Owens. Yeah, yeah, turnabout is fair play. But moderates hit first by disenfranchising NY-23 conservatives. See where this is going? Mr. Henke's right not to focus on the silly moderate/conservative divide.

My hat is off to the campaign for knocking off Scoz. Thank you. We desperately need fiscal discipline in DC, something she didn't even pretend to care about.

I still wonder why Hoffman lost to Owens.

This race had much in common with the Michelle Bachmann 2008 election. In both races, outsiders elevated a minor local race into a national clash of personalities. National Republicans saw Hoffman as a commonsense conservative foil to the RINO Scoz. In MN-06, Democrats saw El Tinklenberg as a humane liberal alternative to a George W. Bush's groupie. 

Residing outside of the district, Tinklenberg was vulnerable to the "outsider" smear. This made it difficult to connect his agenda to his potential constituents. He came off as a pawn for national Democrats. Voters suspected they just wanted Bachmann's scalp.

Is it fair to say Hoffman had similar troubles? Did the parochial angle help Owens? That's floating around the 'net. It is more interesting than the talk of a conservative/moderate divide.

It's not about just winning seats anymore.

2009 and certainly 2010 is not about just winning seats anymore.

GWB & a Republican Congress's six years of profligate spending was terrible. Then the Dem's spending in 2007 & 2008, with few vetoes, made things worse, only to be then capped by the TARP at the end of 8 years of digging us into a huge deficit hole.

But when Obama's victory ushered in such a sweeping expansion of govt driven by the Pelosi, Reid, Schumer, Barney, Rahm, etc team, a lot more people began getting really scared. The whole free market system is now under assault. Soon there will be well over 50% of the population that pays no Federal taxes, and therefore will always vote for somoeone else paying for some new govt program, never realizing that at some point they'll run out of "other people's" money.

And so here's the new awareness: It's not about just winning anymore, it's about what are you going to do after you win! We need real conservatives enacting real conservative solutions to dismantle the new mechanisms that are being put in place. That deficit hole is now becoming four times bigger since Bush and the "moderates" lost power. 

The Dede nomination was just too too far to the Left. She might have gotten away with being pro choice and for gay marriage, but when she was for card check, for the stimulus, and for continued spending, that dam broke. She wasn't even a "moderate" Republican. It was NY20's Tedisco squared (Disclosure: I volunteered to raise money for him, but that's another sad story).

 

yah i just can't get my head beyond

the fact that winning is winning and losing is losing. This contest demonstrates the pickle Republicans are in: the candidates who generate excitement within the party are toxic to the general electorate. As the other poster said, the VA governor's race seems to be a much better model for a Republican resurgance than this one. Primarily because he.....won!

As others have said

This post is representative of the wishful thinking that threatens to outweigh the background factors working in the Republicans' favor in 2010.  There is a strong conservative/libertarian bent in the American electorate, but history has shown again and again that the kind of purist, far right politics that Henke and his compatriots wish could take the country by storm has never won federal elections.  There are districts where that's a viable strategy, but it's straight delusional to imagine that conservative activists can back candidates whom Beck, Limbaugh, Club for Growth, and Focus on the Family leaders can all get off on, run them in the northeast, the west, and the mountain west, and win congressional majorities.

too limiting

it's straight delusional to imagine that conservative activists can back candidates whom Beck, Limbaugh, Club for Growth, and Focus on the Family leaders can all get off on, run them in the northeast, the west, and the mountain west, and win congressional majorities.

Why, precisely?  Let us take for instance the message of fiscal conservatism.  A candidate who said "I believe government must rein in its profligate spending so it does not continue to rob from our grandchildren" would receive the hearty endorsement of all four of the aforementioned conservative institutions.  How is this message not sellable in the Northeast?  Is there something in the Boston water that makes them like debt?

The poisoned well

It won't sell because people know by now that when conservatives say "fiscal responsibility" they really mean "cut off funds to those we don't like and spend like crazy on the military."  There's a big credibility gap between how you want to be seen and how you've acted in the immediate past.

It's nonsense before you even

It's nonsense before you even get to such evaluations, because if someone said "I believe government must rein in its profligate spending so it does not continue to rob from our grandchildren," but was a supporter of abortion rights, or gay marriage, or who didn't think it was the government's role to make children pray in school, or was someone who thought global warming was something more than a fraud perpetrated by a massive conspiracy called Science, they'd lose the support of all of those interests.

Missing the point

A lot of people here seem to be missing the point.  This isn't about hitting litmus tests and being sufficiently "far right".  I thought I made that pretty clear.

This is about some definition of the GOP that doesn't amount to "as fuzzy as we need to be to win." The GOP cannot be a majority party if it becomes Democrat-lite.  Note, as well, that independents split for Republicans this year.

I'm no fan of requiring doctrinaire candidates, either, but we have to differentiate from Democrats.  In particular, we really have to make a more compelling, coherent and intellectual case for limited government.  That means something more sophisticated than "cut taxes, cut spending".  We need to offer plausible and electorally viable mechanisms for achieving that.

Just as the Democrats needed to make a point over Joe Lieberman and others, Republicans need to define themselves better, too.

Finally, the idea that it's "delusional" that Republicans can win in the NE with a candidate like Doug Hoffman is positively laughable.  Despite not getting Party support until the very last days of the campaign - despite having virtually no money or organization until the last month - Doug Hoffman beat the Republican candidate out of the race and came within inches of beating the Democratic candidate, too.

I suppose that's *one* way to look at it...

Finally, the idea that it's "delusional" that Republicans can win in the NE with a candidate like Doug Hoffman is positively laughable.  Despite not getting Party support until the very last days of the campaign - despite having virtually no money or organization until the last month - Doug Hoffman beat the Republican candidate out of the race and came within inches of beating the Democratic candidate, too.

A better analysis might be that Hoffman, despite having a huge amount of free publicity by wignuts, several dozen high prominence endorsements by famour republicans, a ton of cash donated from across the country, and having one of his opponents drop out still underperformed the republican historic average by about 20 points.

I know it doesn't sound nearly as good when I put it that way but that's the reality.  Hoffman crashed and burned badly. 

by getting a higher percentage than Corzine or Deeds?

He could have done worse. He could have had Obama campaign for him

Well yeah

seeing as how the NY23 congressional election has pretty much nothing in common except date with the NJ or VA governor elections somehow cross comparing the percentages seems... dumb.

What matters is not some bizarre apples to oranges comparison between candidates for different positions in different states but rather how candidates compare to the expectations.

For the record, Deeds did also lose badly.  If dems were hailing his loss as a win that'd be as reality divorced as calling NY23 a win for conservatives...

Hoffman ran two points behind McCain's % in NY 23

comparing % with incumbents seeking re-election is the apple v. orange comparison

And your comparision of NY23 race with Virginia, NJ races is...

 

...give it a rest Ironman, you lost your credibility as a reasonable debater a long time ago(see this discussion, for example) on this blog.

Re: Hoffman ran two points behind McCain's % in NY 23

 

FYI: NY-23, not unlike many other districts and some states(Arkansa? West Virginia? etc) across the country, traditionally support different political parties for State and Federal elections.

But don't bother to mention this,and similar points (the low turnout  compared to last year's GE, Ds' lower turnouts than Rs in non-GE years, etc ) for it may weaken the case you meant to argue.

 BTW, since you are a fan of apple picking,  rather than be happy about quoting Obama's victory margin over McCain in the district, you might want to compare Hoffman's perfromance with the previous NY-23 congressman's victory over a democrat. That sure will outweigh your two drops of orange juice wisdom, by a gulp.

In addition

not to pile on (well okay maybe a little) but in addition to the difference in how NY23 votes for local vs federal there's also the fact that 2008 was an enormous wave year for dems.  So even if we accept the premise that the two are comparable that means hoffman underperformed John McCain who, you know, lost badly.

Lemme school you "reality-based" folks about open seats.

Frankly, the responses to my statistical analysis have ranged from the personal attack to the obviously ignorant. So, in the interest of spreading wisdom, lemme explain open seat congressional politics--since it is apparent George Soros won't tell you.

a) Prior incumbent victory percentages are not very relevant; especially for "safe" incumbents.

 After awhile, a popular incumbent has run off credible competition. The "out" party may put up an opponent, but he will be so weak as to only gain the hard core vote of die-hard members of his own party; plus any folks actively angered at the incumbent.  

Case in point: McHugh ran unopposed in 2002. In 2004 his opponent raised a grand total of  $21,141 to compete across a district that covered 14,739 square miles. So McHugh's 71%-29% margin was to be expected---how would anyone know who his opponent was?  or what reason existed NOT to support the incumbent?

Obviously, the DCCC and the Obama White House would make sure a Democratic candidate would have sufficient financial resources to run a strong campaign here. And it was highly unlikely any Republican replacement for McHugh would be as well known as the incumbent.  How'dya like those apples?

b)the 23rd District was a marginal Republican seat in federal elections 

I'm sorry if I use the same handicapping approach as Charlie Cook, so please call him as dumb as you call me. His system of PVI is based on an adjusted average from the last Presidential campaign. NY 23 is an R +1 under Cook's system because of the 52-47% Obama win over McCain here.  Nor was this a one-off due to McCain's weakness in NY state.  GW Bush won the district by a 51%-47% edge in 2004 and by a 49%-47% edge in 2000.  Even Rick Lazio, who ran well ahead of Bush in some parts of upstate NY, didn't run up a really big margin in these counties. I think you need to go back to the various D'Amato races (where he ran against liberal downstaters) to get a very strong GOP margin in this region in a contested election. And the Democratic house candidate here wasn't likely to resemble Bob Abrams or Chuck Schumer.

Assuming two evenly matched candidates, looking at recent competitive federal elections is as good as basis as any to handicap likely performance.  The issue agenda is the same and less likely to be skewed by one-time local factors like some state/local races.

C: Hoffman's performance is comparable to similar races   

There are three comparable races. In the spring. Jim Tedisco lost a special House election in NY 20 by 700 votes or so. NY 20 is an adjacent district which I believe is a R +3 Cook PVI.

Tedisco ran about as far behind his district's PVI as Hoffman did. And for the "why didn't Hoffman match McHugh's numbers", please tell Democrat Scott Murphy what a lousy candidate HE was ,since he ran 12 points behind Kirsten Gillibrand's 2008 performance.

Hoffman got about 46% of the vote. And so did the veteran Republican state senator (Raymond Meier) who ran to replace Sherwood Boehlert in 2006 in the adjoining 24th District.. Boelhert won his last race by 23 points. Meier---an experienced politician representing much of the district-- lost by 8.  

And a special election for State Senate was held in the western half of the 23rd District on February 26, 2008. In the 48th District, State Assemblyman Will Barclay ( a Scozzafava ally)  managed only 47.5% . He was defeated by Darrell Aubertine, who had endorsed Owens. Look in particular at the Jefferson County results. Barclay lost decisively there, as opposed to Hoffman's relatively competitive showing.   (46%)

So, I dunno. I'm a mick lawyer who usually relies on this stuff called "evidence" in my day job. The evidence is, while the Hoffman campaign lost, it is hard to call them out for doing any worse than the other---and more experienced--NYS Republicans did running in similar districts under similar circumstances. And since I went to college about 15 miles outside this district's boundary, and my in-laws live about 30 miles from the edge of the district, I just might have some insight into the reality of NYS politics.

Your "statistical" analysis

consisted of counting how many apples it took to make orange juice.  Strangely none of us were impressed.

It's just not that hard to understand that some areas vote very differently in elections for national representatives, or even state representatives than they do for local representatives.  SO yeah, applying the Cook PVI (based off of presidential votes) to try and understand how a district will vote for a congressman is indeed...dumb, regardless of the appeal to authority.

There are three comparable races. In the spring. Jim Tedisco lost a special House election in NY 20 by 700 votes or so. NY 20 is an adjacent district which I believe is a R +3 Cook PVI.

Oh no you di-in't!  Tedisco lost his race by less than 400 votes out of 160,000.  That's way less than 1%.  Hoffman lost by 4200 votes out of 135,000 so far and the number is expected to increase as the rest of the results get tabulated. 

 

So, I dunno. I'm a mick lawyer who usually relies on this stuff called "evidence" in my day job.

Evidence only works if you understand it well enough to know what it is evidence of.  Hopefully in your day job you understand this.

Yep. in my day job your post would be.....

Move to strike your honor, nonresponsive!

Again, if you think Charlie Cook is a dummy you obviously don't know enough about politics to waste this site's bandwidth. 

You missed the point

 

Cook isn't 'dumb'. You are.

 So, I dunno. I'm a mick lawyer who usually relies on this stuff called "evidence" in my day job.

Your general appeals to rationality/evidence is hollow.

Btw, congratulations, you are only one orange away from Orly  and an apple away from Ann. (The former when she plays the lawyer, the latter when she plays the biologist.)

 

OK try these apples

Garamendi (D) wins a Cook D +16 district (CA 10) by 10 points

The prior incumbent  (D) usually won it by 30 points

I'm sure there are many explanations, but one rather objective one is that an open seat candidate almost always runs weaker than the prior incumbent from his party; unless the incumbent was run out of office for being weak.

It's sort of like if you throw an apple in the air it falls to the ground.  But the Left is so busy legislating they think they can ignore the law of gravity.  And then go and attack someone citing Newton's theory.

Enjoy these special oranges, season after season!

 

If you haven't been noticing,  this isn't just an election for an open seat, but is also a special election, in an off-year. And:

Politico points out how bad the Republican losing streak is in special elections:

Lost amid the Republican euphoria surrounding Tuesday’s elections is this inconvenient fact: The GOP just got its clock cleaned, again, in another high-stakes House special election.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, since Republicans have lost 20 of the past 29 House special elections, dating back to January 2003. And in perhaps the most worrisome aspect of the trend, the GOP lost its fifth consecutive competitive special election in Republican-friendly territory.

On top of it, the Republicans not only lost but wound up with a civil war in their own party.

If you think hoffman did well

by all means repeat NY23 in other races.  I'd recommend starting by primaring Crist, Kirk, and Castle.  Nominate Palin in 2012.  And do try to repeat Hoffman in 2010.

See, even though I think the US needs (at least) two healthy sane parties there's a simple issue of darwinianism.  If you're too drunk on kool-aid to see how stupid you were then it's best to just stand aside and let you commit political suicide so we can get past you quicker and on to a viable political arrangement.

Your white whale awaits.

two parties

See, even though I think the US needs (at least) two healthy sane parties

Why?

I hear this a lot from liberals and I don't understand.  If you are happy with liberalism, why do you want the competition arising from an alternative?

because one party rule

...will quickly devolve.  Without a realistic and viable alternative, the party in control has no motive to oppose corruption by its members.

In other words even if you are happy with liberalism or conservativism if you have just one party that party will quickly only represent plutocracy and nepotism.

Nice analysis Ironman...so you agree NY-23 was moderate then?

the 23rd District was a marginal Republican seat in federal elections

I'm sorry if I use the same handicapping approach as Charlie Cook, so please call him as dumb as you call me. His system of PVI is based on an adjusted average from the last Presidential campaign. NY 23 is an R +1 under Cook's system because of the 52-47% Obama win over McCain here.  Nor was this a one-off due to McCain's weakness in NY state.  GW Bush won the district by a 51%-47% edge in 2004 and by a 49%-47% edge in 2000.

(Rest of ironman's excellent analysis deleted for brevity)

So you agree with me that NY-23 was essentially a moderate/RINO district where a Tea Party firebrand would be unlikely to succeed, then?

MARCU$

 

well, NY 23 isn't the most conservative seat in the country...

or even NYS ( that would be 26 or 29). But John McHugh was pro-life and it still had a 40K registration advantage for the R's; so it's not like you needed a screaming RINO to hold the seat. The point here was the potential Democratic vote here was pretty high, if it wasn;t the Obama White House wouldn;t have put the seat in play in the first place.

If Owens had won a 49%-45% victory over Scozzafava it would probably have been what Rahm Emanuel planned at the start; the name of the guy doing the concession speech was different.

As for whether a "Tea Party firebrand" could succeed here? well, my first point is Hoffman wasn;t the brashest guy out there, that said, unless you actually ran this sort of race you wouldn't have had any data point to answer the question.   Can't win if you don;t play, as the lotto commercials say. And  as my NYS BOE documentation proves, the establishment Republicans in NYS have been losing open Congressional and State Senate races doing things their way just as Hoffman lost.

I think we did establish that a candidate running solely as a protest vote is not likely to get 50% in a district that narrowly supported Obama; a critical mass of voters wanted a local issue Congressman and Owens appeared moderate enough (Army vet; NRA; local business ties) to support; not sure if they would have swallowed a shill for unions and lefty interest groups in this environment.

And thanks for not claiming I'm a "birther";  the other guy on this thread might want to examine the concept of "pleadings lacking evidence"="frivolous litigation"=sanctions from the bench. Even a dumb mick lawyer like moi can figure that out.  I don't like writing checks to the court.

Businesses test market products and NY 23 was a test market for conservatives on what not to do the next time this situation arises.      

A lot of people here seem to

A lot of people here seem to be missing the point.  This isn't about hitting litmus tests and being sufficiently "far right".  I thought I made that pretty clear.

This is about some definition of the GOP that doesn't amount to "as fuzzy as we need to be to win." The GOP cannot be a majority party if it becomes Democrat-lite.

Jon, setting aside the fact that such a distinction, if it can be held to exist at all, is microscopically thin and entirely lost on just about everyone else who was behind Hoffman (one need go no further than this site to see that), it's still necessary to point out that, in throwing around things like "Democrat-lite," you are engaging in a level of fantasy with regard to the present political climate that one would not find in any other context outside of a loony bin. There is NO force, great or small, driving the Republican party to the left, no shadowy cabal promoting "Democrat-lite" and "RINO" or "moderate" candidates over conservatives, no "moderation" by elected Republicans. The party is as far to the right at the moment as it has been in the lifetime of anyone reading these words. This isn't some new phenomenon, either. The party has been driving out less ideologically "pure" elements for years, now. You are not waging some Grand Crusade against a Formidable Dragon by pulling the sort of nonsense that went on in NY23. There's no dragon. You're just helping bury an already-moribund movement, one that I think needs to survive and be an effective opposition.

I'm a strong believer in the idea that there needs to be clear differences between the parties, and I don't disagree with those who said Scozzafava was, in the abstract, probably too moderate for a Republican candidate, but the election wasn't held within an abstraction--it was held in a moderate Republican district. In such a case, the pragmatic thing is to take the best you can get. Do you go with a candidate who will vote for you half the time and can win, or throw your lot with the one who will vote with you every time, and has no chance at all? Now, you have a fellow who will vote with the other side, instead.

Note, as well, that independents split for Republicans this year.

Note the much more significant number: no one showed up at the polls. Turnout, except in a few places, was abysmal.

In particular, we really have to make a more compelling, coherent and intellectual case for limited government.  That means something more sophisticated than "cut taxes, cut spending".  We need to offer plausible and electorally viable mechanisms for achieving that.

I'd entirely agree with you, there, but that isn't a cause that was advanced a millimeter by the farce in New York, and its fictional "candidate."

 

pulling Republicans to the left

There is NO force, great or small, driving the Republican party to the left, no shadowy cabal promoting "Democrat-lite" and "RINO" or "moderate" candidates over conservatives, no "moderation" by elected Republicans.

Are you kidding?

Let's see...

No Child Left Behind - greater federal intervention in K-12 education.  That's not a conservative position.

Medicare Part D - expanding federal entitlements.  That's not a conservative position.

McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance "Reform" - outlawing political speech.  That's not a conservative position.

Bush/McCain Amnesty - rewarding illegal behavior and subverting the rule of law.  That's not a conservative position.

Pork-Laden Federal Spending Bills - e.g. "Bridge to Nowhere".  That's not a conservative position.

Creation of the Department of Homeland Security - using government bureaucracy to "solve" a problem.  That's not a conservative position.

Each one of these things was foisted upon us by establishment Republicans who told us that this is what we conservatives needed to support in order to buy votes among the mushy middle and therefore keep the Democrats at bay.  We will only put up with it for so long, just as you Democrats only put up with Lieberman's antics for so long and drove him out of the party.  We are not going to put up with this establishment Republican "strategy" of severely compromising conservative principles any longer.

Furthermore we are constantly being lectured to by the David Frums and the Peggy Noonans about how we must "enlarge the tent" by throwing asunder social conservatives and other stereotypical hillbilly types that embarrass the sophisticated urban elite.  They want our votes but they don't want our company.  Well, sorry honey, this here's a partnership.  If we've gotta put up with you, then you've gotta put up with us.

And, classicliberal2, it's pretty obvious that you don't even know what real conservatism is from the conservative's point of view.  I'll give you a hint: Nobody I've talked to gives a damn what Lindsey Graham's lifetime ACU rating is.  They are pissed off when Graham collaborates with Democrats in the most repugnant manner possible.  I can somewhat tolerate a desire for a guy like Graham to work constructively with Democrats on an issue like, say, global warming.  Fine, he is following his conscience and maybe he will have some impact to steer the final product in a more conservative-friendly direction.  But no, that's not enough for him: he must ALSO co-author an op-ed in the NY Times with the pompous ass Kerry lecturing all of us on what we ought to do.  That demonstrates to me that he is a publicity seeker and carrying water for the left.  Lindsey Graham does this time and time and time again.  He not only tells us that he disagrees with us, but he's determined to ram it down our throats at the same time.  Much the same can be said of McCain, ergo his lukewarm support by the conservative base.  But, if you had ever really had a serious conversation with a real conservative on the issue of Lindsey Graham or John McCain, instead of just pulling up out-of-context statistics, you'd already know this.

You're just helping bury an already-moribund movement, one that I think needs to survive and be an effective opposition.

What exactly is this "movement" that you think needs to be an "effective opposition"?  The Republican Party?  It can't be effective if its core supporters no longer believe in what it does.  NY-23 was our way of telling GOP HQ that they are on notice.

Good grief

And, classicliberal2, it's pretty obvious that you don't even know what real conservatism is from the conservative's point of view.  I'll give you a hint: Nobody I've talked to gives a damn what Lindsey Graham's lifetime ACU rating is.

Of course not, because it puts the lie to the illusion you're trying to foist on everyone. Anyone can  do what you do--scour some long-serving politicians' record for a handful of heretical votes he cast, mostly on issues of absolutely no consequence, line them up, and say "see, he's NO TRUE CONSERVATIVE!" I have problems with the ACU ratings myself, but what they do effectively is conclusively put that sort of nonsense to bed. They look at a broad cross-setion of the entire career, not just a handful of handpicked votes.

And even some of your examples of heresy are a complete joke. 66% of Republicans told Gallup they supported the creation of a Department of Homeland Security in the weeks leading up to its passage. By December, after it had been passed, that number was up to 76%. The "Bridge to Nowhere" was an initiative of long-serving right-wing Republican Sen. Frank Murkowski (lifetime ACU rating: 81%), and was supported by the nut right's current darling, Sarah Palin.

If you're under the misimpression that you've done anything in this thread except embarrass yourself, be disabused of it now.

what conservatism is

Here's the problem.  You define "conservatism" as "whatever elected Republicans agree with" and "whatever garners high ACU ratings".  I don't.  I define conservatism as adherence to core principles of limited government, personal responsibility and strong national defense.  This is how conservatism has been defined for a while now.  Republicans who do not vote for conservative values are not conservatives, even if the ACU disagrees and even if they get re-elected.  It is completely understandable that you define conservatism in terms of polls and ACU ratings because you have no idea what real conservatism is from the conservative's point of view.  All you hear is what your liberal friends tell you.  So here's your opportunity to learn. 

I am a real conservative.  I talk with real conservatives.  I count conservatives as my close friends.  (And liberals, and libertarians, too.)  There is no such thing as "fanatical devotion" to George Bush.  You keep citing this December poll showing broad support for George Bush among Republicans.  Well guess what - we just got our butts handed to us in an election and, compared to the impending socialism we were about to receive from Obama, yeah, we'd rather have George Bush.  That doesn't translate into stand-alone support for the man's policies en toto.  When you make that claim you are engaging in the fallacy of false generalization.  We want smaller government, not bigger, and yes that includes with the Department of Homeland Security.  We were sold this particular brainchild (BY DEMOCRATS, mainly, if you recall - Bush was initially opposed to the idea) out of post-9/11 fear and by the idea that by consolidating disparate federal agencies, it would lead to a more robust federal response to terrorism.  Well guess what, we should have known better - increasing government bureaucracies generally doesn't lead to better outcomes.  This is what we conservatives have been saying for YEARS AND YEARS.  We stayed home in the 2006 elections in part due to the fiscal excesses of Republicans who took us for granted.  I don't care what Ted Stevens or Sarah Palin supported with regards to the Bridge to Nowhere; such a bridge is not an example of conservative policy.  I will say it plainly: The Republicans of the 2006 Congress deserved to lose because they had lost their way.  In the long run it was better for the cause of conservatism that they lost.

So it's your choice: you can either listen from a real conservative what real conservatism means to him, or you can continue to believe what all your liberal friends tell you what conservatism "really is".  I am speaking from the heart about what I passionately believe.   I completely understand that you are not a member of the persuadable middle and that you will vote for Obama and Obama clones until the day you die.  So I know that conservative candidates will never be able to earn your vote.  That's fine.   Thus I have no motivation to lie to you or try to pull the wool over your eyes in order to trick you to vote for conservatives.  But at least understand what conservatism actually is before you cast your next vote.

Back for more, eh?

Here's the problem.  You define "conservatism" as "whatever elected Republicans agree with" and "whatever garners high ACU ratings".  I don't.  I define conservatism as adherence to core principles of limited government, personal responsibility and strong national defense.

That's how the ACU defines it, as well. The difference is that you look at a politician's history, cherry-pick a handful of examples of what you say are heresies from conservatism (but that often aren't), and pronounce those politicians "moderates" or "RINOs" or those "pulling Republicans to the left," whereas the ACU looks at a broader cross-section of the politicians' career and renders a number on how many times they voted in a conservative way. Theirs isn't comprehensive, but it's broad. Yours is anecdotal, and meaningless, and posits a "theory' wherein "conservatism" can't be more than some sort of theoretical construct in your own head, and not subject to anything in the real world. Something supported by 100% of conservatives for years may be theoretically "anti-conservative" based on some model that exist only in your head, but a designation so based has absolutely no real-world meaning.

It is completely understandable that you define conservatism in terms of polls and ACU ratings because you have no idea what real conservatism is from the conservative's point of view.  All you hear is what your liberal friends tell you.

I don't know if I should be relieved you know me so intimately, or disturbed.

Don't reply to that part--it was sarcasm.