Learning the Wrong Lessons From NY-23
1) Third parties are a waste of time. Nope. In this case - assisted by New York's electoral fusion rules - a third party proved a useful tool for conservatives to at first nudge, then poke, and finally hit the GOP over the head with a 2-x-4 repeatedly to get their point across.
2) Third parties are the wave of the future. Wrong again. When national figures like Glenn Beck start arguing for the formation of third parties to be populated by conservatives, I want to bang my head against the wall. Perot in '92 ring any bells? Nader in 2000? Under American election laws, a third party without a corresponding and mirrored fourth party is like asking for your ideology to fail. In a system with instant runoff voting, I would be all for it. Not now. It's far better for conservatives to fight smaller battles, like NY-23, than to split the right-wing and right-of-center votes along two parties.
3) Conservatives should have picked a candidate who lives in the district. Take a look at this map:
See the black dot I put on there? That's the approximate location of Lake Placid, where Doug Hoffman lives. Go west from it, and you're in the district. Southwest, you're in the district. Due south, you're in the district. Southeast, east, northeast, north, northwest from Lake Placid, and YOU'RE IN THE DISTRICT. Four of the five towns that border North Elba (the town that includes the village of Lake Placid) are in the district. Lake Placid was gerrymandered out of NY-23. Throw in the fact that this whole area is rural and very similar to its surrounding towns, and the "Doug Hoffman doesn't live in the district" meme that the Republicans pushed while Scozzafava was still in the race and that the Democrats pushed after her departure seems very, very silly.
Oh, and as an aside, Republican Party? Maybe you shouldn't have been playing that card considering your support in the SAME YEAR in the SAME STATE in ANOTHER special election, in fact, one in a BORDERING district, of a candidate who was not from that district. The hypocrisy is yet another reason why conservatives are not happy with you.
4) Conservatives drove a moderate out, which is why they lost. Wrong on two fronts. First, calling Dede Scozzafava a moderate is like saying Timothy Leary merely dabbled in drugs. Second, if Scozzafava had stayed in the race, there's a good chance that Doug Hoffman would have won, not to mention that if Hoffman had been the nominee to begin with, he would have stood a good chance of winning.
5) New York Republicans need moderates, not conservatives, to win elections. It sounds similar to the above argument, but it's wrong for a different reason. It's true that in many parts of New York State, Republicans should put moderates rather than full-on conservatives on the ballot. The Albany area's a good example. The North Country isn't like the national stereotype of New York as a liberal state. The party should assess the political mood of each individual district and support candidates that fit with those areas. Dede Scozzafava wasn't a good fit for NY-23. Doug Hoffman was. On the flip side, so was Bill Owens, who figures to be another Blue Dog Democrat in the House. The Democrats figured out that NY-23 didn't want a liberal. One wonders exactly how the GOP came to that conclusion.
6) NY-23 proves the Democrats aren't in big trouble next year. It doesn't prove anything. The nomination of Scozzafava and the insurgent conservative campaign turned this race into an all-out melee. By itself, it can't really speak to the relative vulnerability or strength of the Democrats heading into the midterm elections. The results in New Jersey and Virginia, on the other hand... well, let's just remember what Whitman and Allen's '93 victories portended for '94, and what Corzine and Kaine's '05 victories portended for '06...
7) Sarah Palin and the tea party movement were marginalized by the result in NY-23. Wishful thinking on the part of those professional journalists who can't help but resort to juvenile name-calling when talking about the tea parties. On the contrary, Palin, Thompson, and other fiscal conservatives flexed their muscle and made their point days before the election - the GOP is going to stand on principle whether the party heads want to or not. Remember, up until the last week of the election, Doug Hoffman wasn't expected to win - conservatives merely hoped he'd beat the liberal Republican, and hopefully squeak out an overall victory. The former was accomplished even before Election Day. That's a big win for Sarah Palin, whose endorsement of Doug Hoffman helped kickstart his campaign into overdrive.
8) Hoffman owes all of his support to national figures, so this was "astroturf." Nope. Take a look at the polls. From the very beginning, his numbers did nothing but rise and Scozzafava's numbers did nothing but fall. He wouldn't have attracted any national attention if he and the conservatives of NY-23 hadn't already established him as a legitimate candidate. The national attention merely accelerated his already rising support.
Segueing from the last point, the national media was really only paying attention to this race over the last three weeks of the campaign - thus, they never really got a feel for what was going on there. If they're not careful, it'll cause people to draw the wrong conclusions from NY-23, and the same foolish mistakes will be made in the future.