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GOP's Beck-Limbaugh wing misreads Hoffman's loss in New York

The renewed effort to field staunch conservatives in competitive districts is sure to backfire.

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In the wake of the strong showing by Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in Tuesday's special congressional election in New York, many Republicans are convinced that his near-win is an affirmation that the GOP should more actively support staunchly conservative nominees in races across the nation.

Yet, despite Mr. Hoffman's emergence, his showing is Pyrrhic and could have dire electoral consequences for the Republican Party.

When former Rep. John McHugh resigned to become secretary of the Army, local Republicans nominated Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava to fill the seat, as her moderation appeared a good fit for the upstate swing district. The Republican National Committee and the GOP House leadership got behind her candidacy.

However, numerous national leaders, including Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and scores of conservatives in Congress, unsatisfied with Ms. Scozzafava's stance on abortion, gay marriage, and other issues, bucked their leadership and coalesced around Hoffman. Combined with Scozzafava's miscues, this support almost carried him to victory.

Consequently, many conservative activists and bloggers are hailing Hoffman's campaign as evidence that the GOP should be moving faster to the right. That Scozzafava's late decision to drop out and endorse the Democrat helped seal Hoffman's close defeat is likely only to strengthen this resolve.

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