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Pawlenty endorses third-party-ite over Republican in congressional race

Pawlenty endorses third-party-ite over Republican in congressional race

Gov. Pawlenty has endorsed the candidate of New York’s Conservative Party over the moderate Republican nominee in an upstate New York special election. Sarah Palin did the same thing a few days earlier. The Pawlenty move is being interpreted as an effort to court the Republican right for presidential campaign purposes.

A special election will be held Nov. 3 in the upstate New York District 23 to replace incumbent Republican Rep. John McHugh who resigned to become secretary of the U.S. Army. New York is one of last remaining bastions of moderate Republicanism.

Dems nominated businessman and attorney Bill Owens. Republican State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a moderate who has not embraced the no-new-taxes position, had supported the union position on the Employee Free Choice Act and has voted in favor of gay marriage, won the nomination over businessman and accountant Doug Hoffman, who is a much more down-the-line conservative. She is also the nominee of the New York Independence Party.

Hoffman then won the nomination of New York’s Conservative Party. (New York has a lot of parties. Democrat Owens is also the endorsee of the Working Families Party.)

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Pawlenty, Palin, Gingrich, Bachmann
Because of Scozzafava’s positions, many Republicans have refused to get behind her candidacy. On her Facebook page last Thursday, Palin became the first of the possible 2012 Repub candidates for president to endorse Hoffman, with a statement indicating that conservative principles were more important than party unity.

Newt Gingrich, another possible 2012 contender, has stuck with Scozzafava, on party unity grounds without embracing her aspostate views, especially noting that Hoffman had sought and failed to get the Repub endorsement. He warned that if Repubs don’t get behind their own nominees just because they don’t agree with the party on every issues it will “guarantee” Pres. Obama’s reelection and Nancy Pelosi will become “speaker for life.”

Yesterday, in a statement released to the pro-Repub website, Pawlenty came out for Hoffman, saying:

“We cannot send more politicians to Washington who wear the Republican jersey on the campaign trail, but then vote like Democrats in Congress on issues like card check and taxes. After reviewing the candidates’ positions, I’m endorsing Doug Hoffman in New York’s special election. Doug understands the federal government needs to quit spending so much, will vote against tax increases, and protect key values like the right to vote in private in union elections.”

Michele Bachmann has also endorsed Hoffman, although interestingly, and differently than the others, did so on electability grounds. On the Laura Ingraham radio show, Bachmann said that Scozzafava’s candidacy was collapsing and endorsing the non-Republican was the only hope for keeping the seat in the Republican column. (Talking Points Memo noted that as of the time of Bachmann’s statement, the latest public polls showed Hoffman running third (although a very strong third). But Bachmann may have had a point. All the insiders seem to believe that recent party polls show Hoffman surging past Scozzafava.)

Chris Cillizza of The Fix on seemed to have the same information, citing a new Club for Growth poll that had Hoffman in the lead: (Cillizza: “Polling and conversations with those close to the contest on both sides suggest it is now a two-person race between Hoffman and Democrat Bill Owens with Scozzafava fading badly.)

Cillizza also weighed in on Pawlenty’s possible motives:

“Conservatives dominate the nominating process (as liberals do on the Democratic side) and these are the sort of moments that a relative unknown like Pawlenty will use over the next 18 months to convince voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire that he is one of them.”

What think?