Sunday, November 8, 2009

Debunking Frank Rich's NY23 fantasies

He never set foot on the ground in the upstate New York district during the campaign, but previously interpreted it as Republicans "re-enacting Stalinism," and now the former New York Times theater critic knows exactly what the result means:
This race was a damaging setback for the hard right. Hoffman had the energetic support of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox as well as big bucks from their political auxiliaries. Furthermore, Hoffman was running not only in a district that Rove himself described as "very Republican" but one that fits the demographics of the incredibly shrinking G.O.P. The 23rd is far whiter than America as a whole -- 93 percent versus 74 -- with tiny sprinklings of blacks, Hispanics and Asians. It has few immigrants. It's rural. Its income and education levels are below the norm. Only if the district were situated in Dixie -- or Utah -- could it be a more perfect fit for the narrow American demographic where the McCain-Palin ticket had its sole romps last year.
If the tea party right can't win there, imagine how it might fare in the nation where most Americans live. . . .
Blah, blah, blah. Hoffman began the campaign with near-zero name-ID in the district and, by his own admission, was not the sort of "poised" and "polished" candidate who attracts voters by the telegenic force of his personal charisma.

Frank Rich didn't bother talking to the Hoffman campaign staff who, the day after the election, explained to me how the GOP establishment candidate Dede Scozzafava's dropping out (and endorsing the Democrat, Bill Owens) hurt their candidate.

Once Hoffman established himself as the conservative choice, this left Dede with a rump vote of liberals, personal friends, labor allies, etc., who amounted to less than 20% of the electorate, whereas Hoffman had more than 40%, and Owens was in the vicinity of 35% -- the usual Democratic vote in the 23rd District.

Until the morning of Oct. 31, then, Hoffman was set to win with something like a 44% plurality. Dede's withdrawal and endorsement of Owens, however, threw that calculus into disarray. It also created havoc with the Hoffman campaign's messaging effort. As of Sunday, there were still ads running on TV bashing Dede and depicting the election as a three-way contest. The Hoffman campaign was unable to get those ads stopped and replaced with new ads; meanwhile, the DCCC dumped $1 million in negative attack ads -- depicting Hoffman as a callous greedhead who wanted to ship jobs overseas -- into the local TV market in the final days of the campaign.

All of which is to say that there were unique factors at play in the final days of the NY23 campaign that argue against Frank Rich's claim that Hoffman's narrow loss represents an emphatic, decisive and final failure of the "tea party right."

Rich's biggest error is his mistaken impression of the Hoffman campaign as representing a narrow ideological sect. Anyone who spent much time at all talking to Hoffman supporters in the 23rd District -- you could ask John McCormack or Dave Weigel about this -- would tell you that his candidacy drew strong support from every component of the conservative movement.

The lessons of NY23 are really more tactical than ideological. There were about a dozen top people on Team Hoffman who are privy to the inner rationale of the campaign, its methods and strategies. This esoteric understanding of NY23 will be missed or misunderstood by those who view the campaign in a superficial way.

Hoffman's candidacy provides a template for a different style of Republican campaign, one that bases its appeal on a grassroots "outsider" argument, effectively employs online messaging and fundraising, and draws on the Tea Party volunteers for organizational "boots on the ground" support.

What was learned from the NY23 experience will be applied first in a series of GOP primaries -- including the Florida Senate primary -- and subsequently in the 2010 general election. If the GOP stages a comeback in next year's mid-terms, the Hoffman campaign will be seen in retrospect as a turning point.


  1. RS,

    Face it -- if it means meeting Americans, Rich (and Friedman and Dowd) will not take the chance of getting cooties.

    What sickens me is how little they know of Conservatives and Republicans. You will know no one more closed minded then a Manhattanite (I'm from Queens, so yeah, they look down on other New Yorkers too).

    There is only one thing we on the Right must plan for: Shorting NYT stock on 1/20/10 and have a Conservative buyer ready.

    Then fire Dowd for Althouse; Fire Friedman for Steyn and fire Rich for RS McCain.

    Can it be done?

  2. Typical Rich. What a bleep he is.

    He is wrong about the demographics; it is unlikely whites are still above 70% of the population. But please do notice that the left, whether it is Rich or Bill Clinton, understands the massive demographic change this country is going through. They know what it means and are going to do their damn best to make sure it continues. Only the nitwits in the ‘stupid party’ that is the GOP don’t seem to get it.

    Also, the idea that Hoffman is ‘hard right’ is preposterous. But that is a typical tactic of the left: call a moderate an extremist so as to delegitimize those who actually are conservatives or on the right.

    Still hoping RSM will respond to being called out twice by Richard Spencer at Taki’s for his ‘stupid’ Hoffman ‘fetish.’

  3. The mistake is to think that Frank Rich is actually attempting an analysis. This is really just a creative typing exercise to denounce the Tea Party, warn Republicans away from conservatism and reassure the liberal left. IOW, the same thing Rich has been typing ever since.

    For better or worse, this is all he's got.

  4. Memo for Frank "Off-Broadway" Rich:

    Just in case you missed it, Owens set a new congressional speed record by throwing four--count'em--four of his campaign promises under the ol' Greyhound the very day he was sworn in. I'm sure even Obama was impressed with this performance.

    Unfortunately for Owens, I'd reckon the majority of NY-23 voters are undoubtedly pissed off by his little stunt...and he's going to get hammered for it in due course by his constituents (assuming, of course, he even bothers to show his face in public).

  5. I'm guessing Owens doesn't mind a term that lasts just a little over a year.

  6. Guys, Hoffman lost. The winner takes it all.

    Rich's points are sound: the right fluffed this up into the big event, Hannity caling it the "tsunami." And it went kerplunk. Hoffman lost, making Hannity and yu and others appear foolish.

    It would have been bizarre for a columnist like Frank Rich to contact Hoffamn for comment - this is a column, not news reporting.

    Accept it - the GOP would have a seat in Congress had it not meddled, overestimating the appeal of a far-right candidate. These guys might do splendinly with the base, but mainstream America will reject them. Bring it on, as old King George would say - keep putting fringe candidates like Hoffman into big races, and see how far you get. A blessing for the Democrats, and the death knell for the GOP.

  7. I am not sure how far a Hoffman campaign could go if the GOP was fielding fairly decent candidates to start with--but if the GOP insists on putting forward unacceptable or weak candidates, a third party candidate will fill the vaccum.

  8. Who cares what a theater critic (Frank Rich) has to say about non-theater matters?

  9. "Rich's biggest error is his mistaken impression of the Hoffman campaign as representing a narrow ideological sect... hiscandidacy drew strong support from every component of the conservative movement."

    This reminds me of the line from the Blues Brothers: "We've got both kinds [of music]: country AND western!"