Why Crist and Rubio Will Be Paying Attention to Tonight's New York House Election

Florida's 2010 Republican primary and Today's New York's 23rd congressional district special election are two fronts on the same war: the ongoing battle in the Republican party that's pitting moderates and mainstreamers versus tea-baggers and Conservative activists.

And while the New York election's direct effects on the Sunshine State will be minimal, there is an important prize up for grabs between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio: the all important talking point.

The whole thing is rather complicated, but in a nutshell President Obama appointed Republican Incumbent Republican John M. McHugh to the position of Secretary of the Army, so a special election was called and everyone pretty much expected the seat to remain in Republican control. So the local GOP leaders picked assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, who happens to be pro-choice and believes Gay people should have some rights.

But, New York has a couple of wacky state-level third parties that usually just endorse the mainstream party candidates, but in this case the Conservative party decided to run their own guy, Doug Hoffman (who, will basically be a defacto Republican should he get to Washington).

Now, because there are a bunch of blow hards on the TV and radio who need something to rant about every week they made the election a cause celebre in the conservative movement, and eventually people like Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum swooped in to endorse Hoffman. 

Scozzafava dropped out over the weekend, and in a move that's hard to read as anything other than an "F.U." to the wing nut movement, endorsed the Democrat, Bill Owens. 

Basically the insurgent conservative got into the race and knocked off the GOP establishment's pick, and it's not to hard to draw the lines between that and the Rubio-Crist race. 

If Hoffman wins, and he seems to have the advantage, Rubio fans can start yelling things like "They did it in New York, we can do it in Florida." 

Hoffman and Rubio are part of this same Conservative movement, and Rubio might very well benefit from the checkbooks of re-energized conservatives, and more national conservative stars, high off their Hoffman success, could be encouraged to endorse him. 

Now, if Owens wins, which is still a possibility, Crist supporters can point to it and go, "Look, they lost a race by pulling this nonsense in a Republican leaning district because these conservatives are too extreme. What makes you think Rubio has any chance in the general election here in a purple state?" 

So, tonight, during the elections, while watching the results of the not-so-thrilling local races be sure to take note of the result in New York too, because you're likely to hear about it in connection to the Republican primary down here, at least for the next few months or so.