GOP begins to rally behind Hoffman

Hours after Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava bowed out of the NY-23 House race, top House GOPers are rallying together to support Doug Hoffman, her Conservative Party challenger.

In a joint statement released Saturday afternoon, House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio), House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas.) announced they would support Hoffman's bid to defeat Democratic candidate Bill Owens in the race to fill former Rep. John McHugh's open seat.

"As the House stands on the cusp of the forthcoming vote on a trillion-dollar healthcare reform measure, it is vital that we unify behind a candidate that will support reining in massive government spending and work with Republicans in Congress to restore fiscal sanity and propose thoughtful measures to get our nation's economy on the right track," the lawmakers said in a statement.

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"With Assemblywoman Scozzafava suspending her campaign, we urge voters to support Doug Hoffman's candidacy in New York's 23rd Congressional District," they added. "He is the only active candidate in the race who supports lower taxes, fiscal responsibility and opposes Nancy Pelosi's agenda of government-run healthcare, more government and less jobs."

All three GOP lawmakers previously donated to Scozzafava's campaign, but they came under fire from their party's own conservative base for pushing other Republicans to do the same.

Nevertheless, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele quickly follow suit. Although he did offer a last-minute (albeit somewhat indirect) nod to Scozzafava last week, he never tempered his in kind support for Hoffman, which he repeated on Saturday.

"I appreciate the hard work Dede put into her campaign, and for understanding the political reality of this race," Steele said after announcing the RNC would endorse Hoffman. "By releasing her supporters she has gracefully placed the Party before her own self interest, and for this she deserves enormous credit and respect.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a staunch conservative, also threw his support behind Hoffman this afternoon. While his endorsement is not surprising, it is nonetheless important: Sessions reportedly pushed Hensarling to back Scozzafava earlier this month -- a move that invoked the ire of congressman's tough conservative base.

"I am endorsing Doug Hoffman's candidacy in New York's 23rd Congressional District," Hensarling said. "Doug will fight Speaker Pelosi's efforts to takeover our health care system and work with me to reign-in the record spending, debt and deficits that President Obama and the Democratic Congress are piling onto the shoulders of our children and grandchildren."

A source also told The Hill that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who heads up GOP recruiting for the National Republican Congressional Committee and had attended fundraisers for Scozzafava, will now send a $5,000 check to Hoffman. He previously donated to Scozzafava's campaign.