Let's crank up some Nas and talk about NY-23.
First and foremost it is important to recognize just how egregiously special Congressional elections are blown out of proportion. Elections are a spectator sport for some Americans and ratings gold for the media, yet our election cycle leaves them grasping at straws in most odd-numbered years. When the "big races" for the year are gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, a special Congressional election (especially one not in Illinois and/or involving Jim Oberweis) is the last best hope at finding something interesting to talk about. So naturally said race becomes the grand national referendum on the President, the state of the parties, the future of mankind, and the fate of an adorable puppy that Sean Hannity promises to behead on the air if Doug Hoffman loses.
In reality, the race in NY-23 is a referendum on what people in NY-23 prefer from a slate of lousy options. It is not representative of America, it is representative of the preferences of people shoehorned between Vermont and Canada. Said people are not qualified to tell the rest of the country anything except A) who they prefer to represent them in Congress, B) stuff about hockey, and C) where to find the best maple syrup when we visit the Adirondacks.
To recap, the Republican Party nominated NY State Assembly member Dierdre Scozzafava who, aside from having the single worst name this side of Dick Assman (from Regina!), is a decidedly non-wingnut member of her party. Said wingnuts explosively shat themselves over her positions on issues like gay bashing and abortion despite the fact she is a carbon copy of the kind of Republican who was the staple of New England's Congressional delegations twenty years ago. Thus "Conservative Party" candidate Doug Hoffman entered the fray, earning endorsements from essentially every unemployed right wing idol whose endorsement would prevent you from voting for someone. Democrat Bill Owens was something of an afterthought, as the district has been Republican for ages.
Despairing of her odds of winning, Scozzafava committed political seppuku on Friday. After withdrawing from the race she endorsed Owens on Sunday, presumably consumed by anger and desperate for some measure of revenge against her party. Owens had a slight lead in polling before her decision but was essentially neck-and-neck with Hoffman. What the individuals who supported Scozzafava do will determine the outcome, as will the turnout. Nobody votes in these things, so whoever does a better job of rounding up supporters will have the upper hand.
This is an absolute coin flip and if Owens wins it won't mean a thing for the Democrats other than that a bizarre three-way race split the right in twain and produced an unlikely Democratic winner. But our friends on the right are already touting Hoffman's "victory" over Scozzafava as their Iwo Jima. If he wins the general election this is going to be spun as the single most important election in the history of mankind – not to mention a harbinger of total destruction for the Democratic Party in 2010. Given the way 2006 and 2008 went I can hardly blame them for grasping at straws to declare victory over something – anything – in 2009. I'm almost pulling for Hoffman just to see how ridiculously the right will crow about it. Aside from that petty pleasure, it would provide two benefits to the rest of us.
First, it will ultimately underscore how low the right has sunk to gloat about the fact that a conservative candidate won a district that has been Republican since 1852. Really, kids? That's your big success? Good for you. Second, it will convince the right that the key to winning in 2010 is to go Maximum Wingnut and find a Malkin-approved Hoffman clone in every competitive district in the country. Could anything be more wonderful? I will happily grant them this victory and endorse that strategy for 2010 in much the same way as Lucy puts the football in front of Charlie Brown week after week.
This is a win-win. Either the GOP gets humiliated by dropping a safe seat to a nobody or they win and decide to read it as a ringing endorsement of the Kamikaze Teabagger strategy next year. And who among us would lift a finger to disabuse them of that idea?