What the Conservative Defeat in New York Means for Crist and Rubio

Last night Democrat Bill Owens pulled off a surprising win in New York's 23rd congressional district special election over insurgent Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman who had forced the Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava out of the race. When talking about the results just about every talking head on every network mentioned the Rubio-Crist Republican primary quagmire in Florida. But what does it actually mean for us here in the sunshine state?

As we mentioned yesterday, Charlie Crist --the establishment, moderate Republican in the race-- and his supporters now have a pretty powerful talking point: Sure, a conservative movement-backed candidate like Rubio may be able to theoretically knock off a moderate Republican in the primary, but what's the point when they can't even win amongst the general populace? They can't even do it in a traditionally Republican area, what's the game plan for a notoriously purple state like Florida? 

Some starry eyed conservatives painted the result as a win for the movement, noting that it proves Republicans can't win without support from the far-right. But, if we're going down that road, it also proves Conservatives can't win without moderate support either. 

Really, the political science here for the conservative movement isn't a secret: their best path to success means electing the most conservative candidates they can in red-leaning districts and some toss-up areas, while fielding a few moderates in other toss-ups and blue-leaning districts. That way they'd be much more likely to get the majority, with conservative Republicans clearly in control of that majority. It's more or less what Democrats did: taking over traditionally red seats with blue dog democrats, but your San Francisco Liberal Nancy Pelosi is still Queen of the House. 

And make no mistake, if Hoffman hadn't entered this race, the GOP would probably be preparing to swear in Scozzafava today. Yet, they seems to be hellbent on electing a tried and true conservative in any race possible. The sign might as well read, "No moderates need apply." 

So, here in Florida, conservatives have to decided if pushing Marco Rubio to a win in the Republican primary only to see him possibly lose in the general election worth forgoing an almost guaranteed win by "Moderate" Charlie Crist?

The national GOP and conservative movement as a whole are sure to be mulling that over today. Will the same superstars who swooped in to New York be as eager to risk having egg on their face to stump for Rubio? Will the GOP powers that be and mega-donors allow it? 

Hoffman and Rubio are two very different candidate to be sure (Rubio, for one, is actually familiar with the local issues), but the movement and support they were both counting on are one in the same, and Hoffman's loss may also prove to be a hurdle for Rubio. 

It may not instantly derail him, but as long as he keeps trailing in primary polls and fundraising the Conservative movement may have just lost the steam needed for any hope of carrying Rubio to victory. 

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kyle Munzenrieder