I learned from reading Stuart Rothenberg’s take on the the outlook for the 2009 elections that Jon Lerner was responsible for the Club For Growth poll showing conservative candidate Doug Hoffman taking a small lead in New York’s 23rd Congressional District special election. Having managed Rudy Boschwtiz’s unsuccessful 1996 Senate campaign against Paul Wellstone in which I served as Rudy’s treasurer, Jon is an old friend of mine. Jon is now the principal of the political consulting firm Red Sea LLC and the polling firm Basswood Research.
Jon is a man of complete integrity. Rothenberg himself notes parenthetically that Jon is a straight shooter. “For the record,” Rothenberg writes, “Club for Growth pollster Jon Lerner is among the least likely pollsters to fudge numbers or manipulate data.” Rothenberg’s got that right.
Following up on Rothenberg’s column, I called Jon to ask for his take on the congressional election. He made so many interesting points that I asked him to reiterate them briefly in a message for Power Line readers. Jon writes:
To recap our discussion of NY-23, I have done three surveys for the Club for Growth. The initial survey was conducted at the very outset of the race, before any advertising was done by anyone. At that time, “Republican” Dede Scozzafava held a narrow lead. But it was apparent that her lead would not withstand the heat of battle.
About half of her support came from Democrats in the Watertown area who knew her pro-labor, liberal voting record and liked it. The other half came from Republicans who did not know about her liberal record but were supporting her because she was the Republican candidate. Once Democrats quickly learned that they could vote for a real Democrat, Bill Owens, they left Scozzafava. And once Republicans learned how liberal her record was, and that they had a conservative alternative in Doug Hoffman, they also left Scozzafava.
What remains is a close race between Owens and Hoffman, with Scozzafava continuing to collapse. Financially, Hoffman is in good shape, thanks largely to the Club for Growth and online donations. The DCCC, AFSCME, and SEIU are now 100 percent negative against Hoffman in their TV ads, which is proof of the closeness of the race.
What remains of Scozzafava’s vote is still about 2:1 Republican, so Hoffman has a good chance of growing further. But it’s a close one that could go either way.
Ironically, the one person who is doing the most harm in the race is Newt Gingrich. Scozzafava has no chance to win any longer. By Newt signaling to conservatives that it’s okay to support Scozzafava, he is making it more likely that Owens wins.
Even the NRCC understands this, as they have wisely limited their advertising message to attacking Owens rather than promoting Scozzafava. If Hoffman wins, and he very well might, it will be a great victory for the conservative movement, and a great lesson to the Republican Party.
Newt Gingrich is a historic figure who is rightly proud of many accomplishments, but in this case he has made a mistake. His pride is preventing him either from seeing it or from acknowledging it. Message to Newt: Give it up!