The Big Question: The Scozzafava effect?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Dede Scozzafava drops out of the special election in New York's 23rd district and endorses the Democratic candidate.

What does it all mean? Are there national implications for this weekend's events in New York?

Rep. Michael E. McMahon (D-N.Y.) said:

“This weekend’s events seem to be another example of a growing trend -  that moderate, centrist voices are perceived as not being welcome in the Republican party."

Rob Richie of Fair Vote said:

Most observers are naturally focused on the implications of the battle between Dede Scozzafava and Doug Hoffman for what means about the future  of the Republican Party and how large its tent may be the in the future. But, combined with Chris Daggett's surprisingly strong poll numbers in the New Jersey governor's race, what grabs me about Hoffman's rise and Scozzfava's fall is its implications for voter frustration with the major parties. Hoffman's poll numbers grew large enough to crash through the glass ceiling that can so often suppresses potential third party votes. Daggett seems to have fallen short of that goal ,but in 2010 we may well see more cases of strong independent and third party challenges if the major parties continue to have problems getting the people's business done in Washington. That's healthy for our democracy, as it increases accountability for both individual incumbents and the major parties in general -- we just need voting reforms like instant runoff voting to accommodate increased voter choice.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), said:

Democrats are more mainstream and represent middle Americans more effectively as opposed to the conservative Republican that is not in accord with the majority of Americans. This is a clear indication that the Republican party has yet to rebuild itself to represent and address the issues of mainstream Americans in an efficient manner.

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), said:

“What it means is that Dede Scozzafava believes that Bill Owens would be a better member of Congress for the 23rd Congressional District than Doug Hoffman. It means the right-wing candidate in the race is for rolling back policies that would create jobs, improve healthcare and increase our energy security. And it means that there are people, like Dede, in the Republican Party who want solutions to our problems.

...when you consider that for a long time, this seat has been safely in the hands of the Republican Party. The implication is that the President’s messages on health care reform, job creation and clean energy policy are resonating in every corner of the country, and that’s why a democrat is enormously competitive in this race.

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit said:

It means that the Republican establishment blew it.  It also formed a rallying point for the Tea Party movement which — by getting Scozzafava to drop out — has already won a victory regardless of what happens on Tuesday.

Whether it's a Pyrrhic victory or not depends not on who wins tomorrow, but on how the GOP establishment, and the Tea Party movement, act afterward. If they reconcile and work together, it's good news for the GOP. If they engage in extended infighting, or if we see the Tea Party movement turn into a third party, then it's probably good news for the Democrats.

Michelle Bernard, President of the Independent Women's Forum, said:

There are limits to the application of what's happen in New York's 23rd district to the rest of the country: After all, New York is unique in many ways, not least of which is how these nominees are chosen and the opportunity for representatives of third parties to impact races. But both Republicans and Democrats would be wise to consider these possible lessons from the New York special election.

Republicans: especially in a special or off year election, your base is going to drive the race and impact the perception of the candidate. The base isn't going to be satisfied with candidates barely distinguishable from that of the other party. And it isn't about social issues: it's about the size of government, limits to government power, government's burden on taxpayers, and the protection of individual rights. Most importantly, conservatives will take heart that so many independents have expressed support, not for the most "centrist or “moderate” candidate, but for the one who promised to limit the size of our government's ever expanding waste line. In this case, it was the conservative candidate.

Democrats should be concerned about this very same thing: Democrats are losing independents in droves. Runaway spending, runaway government like creating czars that can arbitrarily make the equivalent of law, and a perceived unwillingness to listen to the public (which doesn't want this health care package: see the Independent Women's Forum's last poll to see the tepid support these plans receive from women and Independents) has a heavy price. Independents had believed that the President would govern from the center and truly work with both sides of the aisle. Today, many of them appear to question this. It is quite possible that voters are going to want a check on what this Democratic Congress stands for and this should worry vulnerable Members of Congress.
 

Larry Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics, said:

I’m all for spinning the events in one congressional district (or state) into a national story. It’s good for business. But in the midst of overreaching, let’s secretly remember that NY-23 is an extraordinary case caused by eleven party elites in a back room, picking a liberal Republican as the House nominee. In rare cases when moderate or liberal Republicans are nominated, it is usually a broader primary electorate doing the choosing — and it is harder to generate a rebellion against ‘the will of the people’. Yes, NY-23 will embolden the tea party activists and the GOP right. But conservatives already run the party in the vast majority of places across America.

William Redpath, Chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, said:

It means that, at the end of the day, the two older parties will do anything to protect their own and their duopoly in US politics. Anything and everything else means less to them.

John F. McManus, President of the John Birch Society, said:

Scozzafava's endorsement of the Democrat demonstrates quite dramatically that there is very little difference between establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans. Further, her abandoning the race because of the obvious voter preference for Conservative Party candidate Hoffman indicates that voters are turning once again toward traditional values. Should Hoffman win, his victory will send a large shock wave throughout the nation (her dropping out sent a small shock wave) and signal the shift of momentum away from big government toward the strictures in the U.S. Constitution.