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Schism in the Republican Party?

With Republican Bob McDonnell on his way to a landslide victory in Virginia’s gubernatorial election and Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine having battled back into a statistical tie with Republican challenger Chris Christie in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race, many pundits are looking at the special election for New York District 23’s Congressional seat on Tuesday as a sort of tie-breaker in Tuesday’s off-year elections. This seat was vacated this summer when Republican John McHugh resigned to become President Obama’s Secretary of the Army. This race took on added intrigue when Doug Hoffman entered the race on the Conservative Party’s ticket…and won the endorsement of many nationally prominent Republicans over the local party’s choice, moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava.

Today came news that Scozzafava, trailing both Hoffman and Democratic nominee Bill Owens in polls, is suspending her campaign. She’ll still be on the ballot on Tuesday, and likely has already gotten some votes through absentee voting, but this makes the race between a hardcore conservative and a Democrat.

People who follow politics have certainly noticed that there are increasingly fewer moderates in the Republican party, especially in Congress. They have either been ousted by Democrats, retired or, in the famous case of Senator Arlen Specter (PA) this past spring, switched parties.

While pundits will use Tuesday’s elections as a referendum on President Obama, this special election may be more of a referendum on whether or not there is still a place for moderates (such as Senator Olympia Snowe) in the Republican party. If Hoffman wins, national Republicans will crow that Americans want hardcore conservatives in Republicans. If Owens wins, it could create a split within the party. While Obama did win NY-23 by 5 points last November, the district has long been solidly Republican; parts of it have been represented by a Republican since before the Civil War. If Owens wins, moderate Republicans will blame the party’s conservative wing for costing them a seemingly safe seat in the House just so they could maintain ideological purity, while conservatives will blame the district’s GOP establishment for not nominating a conservative.

Could the Republican party split into two?


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