Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
Reporter James L. Rosica covers state government from the Tribune's Tallahassee bureau. Email
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Why Marco Rubio should be rooting for Doug Hoffman
Posted Oct 27, 2009 by William March
Updated Oct 27, 2009 at 11:35 AM
Nationwide, two political campaigns are being viewed as symbols of the battle between conservatives and moderates in the Republican Party—Marco Rubio’s challenge to Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida Republican Senate primary, and a House race in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.
The Nov. 3 New York special election will replace Rep. John McHugh, a Republican named secretary of the army by President Barack Obama.
Like Florida’s Senate race, it features a Democrat, an establishment Republican and a conservative insurgent.
The Republican, Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, is a moderate like Crist, only more so—she’s pro-choice and favors same-sex marriage. Like Crist, she has the backing of the national Republican Party.
The Democrat, Bill Owens, a lawyer and civic leader, favors Obama’s health care reform package and has had strong backing from Obama – just as Democrat Kendrick Meek probably will have in the Florida race.
Then there’s Doug Hoffman, who competed for the Republican nomination but didn’t get it, and is now running as the Conservative Party candidate.
He’s backed by a growing coterie of conservatives – the Club for Growth, Dick Armey’s Freedomworks, RedState.org, the National Review and others—all of whom also back Rubio. He’s being talked up by Rush Limbaugh and other talk-show conservatives.
His latest coup was an endorsement from Sarah Palin, who said on her Facebook page last week, “There is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race.”
The upstate district is traditionally Republican, but can swing—it went for Obama in 2008, according to a New York Times report, as did Florida.
Right now, polls show Owens winning as Hoffman and Scozzafava split the conservative vote.
Rubio said in an interview recently he’s not watching the New York race – “It’s a full-time job running for the Senate,” he said. But a good showing by Hoffman—a win, or even outrunning Scozzafava—would surely embolden and energize those Republicans who favor Rubio.
Rubio occasionally uses language in his stump speech that seems to hint at a third-party or independent run if he doesn’t get the GOP nomination – the party, he says, “is the natural home of this movement, but not the inevitable home.”
But a spokesman denies that’s a hint that Rubio might jump the party, and says he wouldn’t.