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NY-23: Scozzafava Pushing Supporters To Owens?

Due to travel and some logistical nightmares, I was basically away from the Internets yesterday, but obviously the major political story was Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava suspending her campaign in NY-23. The GOP establishment quickly endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, and the teabaggers roared with anticipation of a victory. But the major local paper in the area, the Watertown Daily Times, reports that yesterday Scozzafava “began to quietly and thoughtfully encourage her supporters to vote for Democrat William L. Owens.” And Scozzafava’s husband, who as it turns out is the president of the local Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO, formally endorsed Owens last night:

At 10 p.m. last night – right in the middle of the Halloween festivities – Scozzafava’s husband, Ron McDougall, president of the Jefferson/Lewis/St. Lawrence Central Labor Council issued a statement through the AFL-CIO that he is endorsing Owens against Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman.

According to his statement, it basically all comes down to support of the labor movement’s top priority, the Employee Free Choice Act and its controversial card-check provision, which Owens and Scozzafava supported – much to the chagrin of the right – and Hoffman pointedly does not.

Labor had mostly endorsed Scozzafava prior to her suspension. Now they are all switching to Owens, including the state teacher’s union. This is extremely key when it comes to GOTV. While Hoffman now has the local Republican Party machinery, Owens will have labor and its vast experience in turning out voters. There are 80,000 union members and families in the district. The President of the state AFL-CIO said “We will up our traditional get-out-the-vote operation.”

The Watertown Daily Times, which had endorsed Scozzafava, also switched to Owens.

Now, I would still put Hoffman in a favorable position. Snap polling puts him at around 45-46%, with Owens lagging behind. And this is an unusual election, with all this late movement, so Hoffman may not be hurt by the GOTV gap, given the intensity of his support and the likely rate of traditional Republican supporters (this district has been Republican since the mid-19th century). But I don’t think anyone should see this as completed.

It’s true that the experience of Hoffman may be unique to this election and this district and a generally bad precedent for a Republican Party darting quickly to the right. But even in this case, it may not succeed.

UPDATE: Dave Weigel has a good piece gaming out the scenarios on the race. I didn’t realize that Vice President Biden would be out campaigning for Owens on Monday. Also the Independence Party, which will have Scozzafava on its ballot line, endorsed Owens yesterday.

UPDATE II: Sam Stein notes that the White House is publicly and privately urging Scozzafava to endorse Owens.

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David Dayen

David Dayen