For the Good of the Party

In the 2006 New York State gubernatorial election – an interesting thing happened. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld was running against former New York State Assembly Minority Leader John Faso for the Republican nomination. Weld had his own ballot line separate from the GOP (Libertarian). He had a Lieutenant Governor nominee lined up. He was a former Governor and had all the experience necessary to be Governor. Then came the 2006 NY GOP Convention.

At the convention, Faso won the the nomination. Weld was still within his right to primary him. He still had some high level support within the GOP and the all important second ballot line. But, he didn’t. Why? For the good of the party.

In 2008, for that same reason, Mitt Romney dropped his Presidential bid and endorsed John McCain. Romney still had a path to victory – it was slim, but plausible. He opted instead to drop his bid and help rally his supporters to John McCain.

This begs the question – when does it become the responsibility of a candidate to drop their bid for office “for the good of the party?”

In the case of Weld v. Faso, it made sense. The Republican Party was up against a monster in New York State politics in Eliot Spitzer. Before his fall from grace, Spitzer was a force to be reckoned with and appeared unbeatable. Weld’s campaign did not add anything significant. A primary would divide the party unneccesarily when they needed to unite against a strong opponent in a Democratic year. The primary would not remarkably change the discussion – both of them would talk about taxes and spending while ignoring social issues; both would attack Spitzer as a poor bipartisan leader; both would have run a similar general election campaign. In the end, swapping out Weld for Faso would not have changed the course of the campaign enough. There was no case for a primary and for the sake of party unity – his step aside made sense.

The end of Romney’s bid served the same purpose. Polling was showing Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama strong against any Republican candidate. The path for victory for Romney was difficult, but doable. Yet, McCain had momentum, stronger nationwide favoribility ratings, and an easier path to the nomination. Romney’s general election campaign could have been remarkably different than McCain’s – but at that point in time, Romney had no reason to continue. He was not an ideological opponent of McCain; he did not offer a compellingly different general election strategy; and his continued presence only served to drain and slow down from the eventual nominee. For the good of the party and for the good of John McCain’s campaign – it made sense for Romney to step aside.

This brings me to the election that I can not seem to ignore – NY-23. Instead of a primary, we have a general election with two Republican candidates. Scozzafava and Hoffman would both caucus with the GOP if elected. Unlike a primary, the victor of the two of them does not have a few months to rally against the Democratic nominee. They are running simultaneously against the Democrat.

Supporters of Scozzafava have throughout the campaign called on Hoffman to drop out for the good of the party and to preserve the seat for the GOP. Yet, this is a case where the primary or continued campaign by Hoffman is important. Hoffman has a different message than Scozzafava – he is championing fiscal and social conservatism. His fiscally conservative focus has resonated in the district and recent Research 20000 polling shows Hoffman tied with the Democratic nominee…with Scozzafava polling at 21%. Hoffman is leading amongst independents and Republicans.

Now this begs the question – who’s presence in this race is really hurting the party’s chances of successfully retaining this seat? Who’s presence in the campaign does not add much to the discussion? Who’s presence in this campaign is only serving to help prevent the GOP from maintaining this Congressional seat? Perhaps it is Scozzafava should realize that, for the good of the party, the ending of her campaign makes more sense.

Cross posted at Old Line Elephant