By Kathleen Gilbert

WATERTOWN, New York, November 2, 2009 ( – A new poll shows Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman having launched into a comfortable lead for New York 23 District's Nov. 3rd special election. The new numbers come after the socially liberal Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, dropped out of the race Saturday and threw her weight behind the Democrat candidate. 

Polls had already shown Hoffman either ahead of, or neck-and-neck with Democrat Bill Owens, while Scozzafava's hopes to take the deeply conservative district crumbled under the weight of her hard-left viewpoints.  Now, a survey released by Public Policy Polling Monday shows Hoffman 17 points ahead of Owens at 51%-34%, with Scozzafava – whose name will remain on the ballot – at 13%. When left to only the two active candidates, Hoffman leads Owens by 16 points, 54%-38%.

The saga unfolding in the district has come to be closely watched across the nation as auguring the future face of the GOP – and the latest developments appear to have given a dramatic answer in favor of traditional conservative values. 

“Even if Hoffman wins big in tomorrow's election, however, the consequences of the Republican Party's blunders in this campaign are likely to be felt far away from upstate New York,” observed the American Spectator's Robert Stacy McCain on Monday.  “A yawning chasm of alienation between the GOP establishment and the party's grassroots has been exposed.”

Discontent among local conservatives erupted in the district last month after GOP insiders selected Scozzafava, a pro-abortion, pro-homosexual “marriage” candidate to replace the popular conservative Republican Rep. John McHugh, whose appointment as Army Secretary had created the vacancy.  In a district that has remained Republican since the Civil War, the race grew unusually heated between the major party candidates thanks to Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.

Running on a pro-life, pro-family platform, Hoffman began to gather endorsements from notable conservative figures, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Dr. James Dobson, and Sen. Jim DeMint.  Groups including the Susan B. Anthony List, the National Organization for Marriage, and Concerned Women for America endorsed and mobilized grassroots-level campaigning for the dark horse candidate.  Soon, Hoffman's polling numbers began to inch ahead of both Scozzafava and Owens.

A further, more ironic blow to the GOPer's campaign may have come when NARAL attempted to rescue Scozzafava from sliding poll numbers by touting her pro-abortion credentials.  Pro-abortion commentators complained that the strategy coincided with a conservative ad campaign that also exposed Scozzafava's strongly pro-abortion, pro-card check and pro-homosexuality record to conservative New Yorkers.

“When your messaging and tactics are indistinguishable from the right-wing dirty tricksters, you know you've screwed up,” wrote Daily Kos writer Markos Moulitsas.

In a surprise move Saturday, Scozzafava gave up the campaign.  According to Politico, the White House and New York Democrat leaders convinced Scozzafava to drop out and back Owens with the hopes of adding Scozzafava's independent supporters to the Democrat ticket.

“In recent days, polls have indicated that my chances of winning this election are not as strong as we would like them to be,” said Scozzafava in a statement Saturday.  “The reality that I've come to accept is that in today's political arena, you must be able to back up your message with money—and as I've been outspent on both sides, I've been unable to effectively address many of the charges that have been made about my record,” she added.

Critics took issue with the claim that Scozzafava was outspent, pointing out that the National Republican Congressional Committee had poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the assemblywoman's campaign. Instead, they say, blame could be placed more squarely on Scozzafava's patently liberal agenda.

“When a GOP candidacy is not based on fundamental conservative values, the party and the principles are inevitably betrayed at critical moments,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, following Scozzafava's Owens endorsement.

“In this race and in future races, we will stand for the candidates who firmly believe in these fundamental American ideals,” said Dannenfelser, whose organization supports Hoffman's pro-life, limited-government platform.  “These principles are not only right, they are the path to electoral victory.”

Conservative radio guru Rush Limbaugh urged the GOP to take back the mantle of conservatism Tuesday, warning that the party's trending towards liberal values constituted a “death wish.”

“Gallup: 40 percent of Americans now say they are conservative, 20 percent say they're liberal, 36 percent say they're moderates. And of those three groups, which one is being ignored – not just ignored – which one is being attacked by the Republican Party? The conservatives!” said Limbaugh.

“Right now conservatism is on the ascendancy, it's actually good to be a conservative, and this is the time to reassert control over the Republican Party,” he continued.  “It's not going to be easy but the Democrats, the far left didn't go out and form a third party. They took over the Democrat Party.”

Hoffman's victory may help mark a palpable conservative push-back against President Obama's election last year, if it coincides with GOP wins in the key gubernatorial races of New Jersey and Virginia.  New Jersey's incumbent Jon Corzine and Virginia's Creigh Deeds, both Democrats personally endorsed by President Obama, are behind in the polls in the lead-up to Tuesday's election.  Obama traveled to New Jersey on Sunday to stump again for Corzine, who is seen to stand more of a chance against Republican Chris Christie than his Virginia counterpart against Republican Bob McDonnell.

See previous coverage:

NARAL Supports GOP Candidate in Fight for NY23 Against Surging Pro-Life Conservative

New Polls Show Pro-Life Conservative Upstart Hoffman Taking Lead in Battle for NY 23

Conservative Rebellion Explodes in New York over Extreme Liberal GOP Candidate