November 2, 2009 in Nation/World

GOP’s future uncertain as moderates get sidelined

Valerie Bauman Associated Press
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ALBANY, N.Y. – In a Republican Party struggling to find its identity, the surprise withdrawal of the chosen GOP candidate for a New York congressional race – forced by a rising conservative upstart – renews a lingering national debate: Are moderates welcome in today’s Grand Old Party?

The question became even more relevant Sunday when the ex-candidate, state Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava, threw her support behind the Democrat in the race rather than the Conservative Party candidate favored by fellow Republicans.

The GOP leadership insisted on Sunday political TV talk shows the party is strong and inclusive while Democrats described a Republican party out of touch with the people.

“We accept moderates in our party, and we want moderates in our party. We cover a wide range of Americans,” Republican House Leader John Boehner said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

But in New York’s rural 23rd Congressional District, the message was clear early: Scozzafava was too moderate; some even used the dreaded “L” word – liberal. Her endorsement of Democrat Bill Owens over Conservative Doug Hoffman only reinforced that perception – even her former campaign spokesman, Matt Burns, said it was a mistake and urged Republicans to back Hoffman.

During the campaign she failed to connect with voters, party officials or, perhaps most important, campaign donors, largely because of her support for abortion rights, same-sex marriage and union rights. That opened the door for Hoffman, who took every opportunity to remind people that Scozzafava was not the kind of Republican they wanted representing their interests in a Democratic-led Congress.

Scozzafava’s husband, local labor leader Ron McDougall, said his wife had been treated “harshly.”

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