Guest-posted by Jimmie Bise of The Sundries Shack.
I sat in on a media and blogger conference call hosted by the American Conservative Union PAC tonight on the most recent news in the NY-23 race. The call was moderated by Ali Akbar of 73Wire and featured Stacy, Eric Odom (also of 73Wire), Matt Burns (the former spokesman for Dede Scozzafava) and Rob Ryan (Doug Hoffman's spokesman). It was an informal affair, but there were a few little tidbits that I think you will find interesting. I'm going to presume upon Stacy's hospitality and share my observations
Matt Burns began the discussion and I definitely sensed a big helping of awkwardness. After all, Burns was the point man for some pretty wicked attacks against the conservative grassroots in the past three weeks. However, it's worth remembering that Burns' job was to make his boss look as good as he possibly good and to knock down the opposition. That's what he did, professionally and, so far as I'm concerned, without rancor.
Most of what he had to say involved why he worked with Scozzafava, who he continued to identify as a "moderate" and the person the local GOP officials believed had the best chance to win. He was obviously disappointed and surprised when she turned tail and endorsed Owens. My impression is that he saw it as a bit of a personal betrayal. He did say he thought she was wrong, which is something, and he's working with the Hoffman folks to help him beat Owens.
Burns then took a couple questions, both involving how the national RNC/RNCC acted in the race, which he really couldn't answer authoritatively. I do feel for Burns, but I'm not sure how he could have been all that surprised by what she did. Birds gotta fly, cats gotta sing and all...
I wanted to jump in with a question here, but there wasn't time. I will throw it out for your consideration, though. Burns still very much believes that Scozzafava is a moderate, but I'm at a loss to see what moderate position she holds on any major issue. She is not an avowed tax-cutter, hasn't acted to shrink government, has sided with ACORN's closest ally in the state, is closely tied to Big Labor, supported the Stimulus Bill, and is not only pro-choice but activist enough about it to have received an award named for Margaret Sanger from Planned Parenthood. I have no doubt that Burns wants what's best for the Republican Party, but I honestly don't see what about Scozzafava said "reliable anti-Pelosi vote" considering that so many of her core positions align so perfectly with the leftmost of the left-wing.
I really don't know the answer, but we'll see if some of the Republicans who so valiantly worked for Scozzafava explain what about her gave them reason to believe she would be anti-Pelosi. Burns said that we really can't fault the GOP leadership for getting behind Scozzafava. I'm not so sure about that. From the grassroots grumbling I've been hearing, people certainly can and, more importantly, they are.
Next up was Rob Ryan, who had a couple interesting things to say. First, given the number of times the Working Families Party and ACORN came up, it's clear that the Hoffman campaign is concerned about the possibility of serious shenanigans from one or the other group, or both. Ryan pretty much said outright tht campaign can't do much about it except to bring attention to the possibility and work hard enough so that anything they do won't matter in the end. I think that's a pretty healthy attitude. Ryan also says his most urgent need is bodies to help with the campaign. They're in crunch time right now and Hoffman needs as many people as possible to knock on doors and work the phones.
Ryan also said he's getting some help from the RNCC in the form of robocalling and campaign workers. I tossed in a question later about whether the campaign was concerned that voters might not buy the GOP hype now, considering how hard it worked to tear Hoffman down in the past couple of week. His answer struck me as very pragmatic. He wasn't terribly concerned by it, but there wasn't anything he could do about it except to keep pushing Hoffman's conservative message using every resource he has. The RNC/RNCC are providing resources now and he's going to use them.
Stacy and Eric Odom came on at the end to give some of the background about their reporting on the race (Stacy has been on the story since the original October 14 blogger conference call). The upshot of what they had to say is that, from where I sit, their reporting has been key to putting this race on the national map. If not for Stacy and, later, the guys at 73Wire getting word out about what was happening in the campaign, I don't think the grassroots (who money-bombed Hoffman into front-runner status) would have gotten involved nearly as much as they have. Now, some folks wouldn't call that journalism but that's exactly what it's been. They have been braking stories like Scozzafava's exit from the campaign yesterday and her endorsement of Owens. Indeed, the very fact that Hoffman was a viable candidate was a legitimate story. They've done yeoman's work here and I, for one, am pretty darned proud of what bloggers have wrought in NY-23.
UPDATE: Pat Austin and Ed Morrissey were also on the call. Their impressions are instructive.
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