Gingrich endorses Scozzafava in NY-23 race

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) may have stepped into a political quagmire after endorsing a moderate New York Republican's special election bid.

A host of GOP leaders have tried to distance themselves from the ongoing showdown between Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a centrist Republican, and Doug Hoffman, the local Conservative Party's candidate. But Gingrich offered his perspective to the three-way contest for now-Army Secretary John McHugh's vacant seat on Friday when he became one of only a handful of conservative Republicans to openly back his party's struggling candidate.

“The special election for the 23rd Congressional District is an important test leading up to the mid-term 2010 elections,” Gingrich said of Scozzafava's candidacy in a statement to supporters, as reported by the The Post-Standard. “Our best chance to put responsible and principled leaders in Washington starts here, with Dede Scozzafava.”

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Gingrich's key endorsement could spell good news for Scozzafava, heretofore supported only lukewarmly by her own party. Already, the Club for Growth, Concerned Women of America, evangelical leader Gary Bauer, former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and a host of other GOP supporters and lawmakers have sided with Hoffman, who has recently posted gains in preliminary polls.

By contrast, only about 17 Republicans have even written checks to Scozzafava's campaign, and the party's conference chairman -- Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) -- has altogether steered clear of the tough race.

At issue for some unsure Republicans seems to be a fear of a possible political backlash. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tx.) knows that feeling all too well; after he announced his backing for Scozzafava, his conservative base attacked him viciously, specifically harping intimidate details of his personal life.

Gingrich, however, seems not to care about this brewing, inner-party divide. Instead, he championed Scozzafava's candidacy on Friday as the future of the party -- not necessarily the harbinger for a lingering party divide, as some pundits have speculated.

“The Republican Revolution in 1994 started very much like what we see today,” the former speaker said.  “Like then, our country is reeling from misguided liberal policies, high taxes and out-of-control spending. This special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District could be the first election of the new Republican Revolution, but we need the momentum to get it started.”