Right wing purists egged on by Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin fought to capture an upstate House seat today and electrify their drive to purge moderates from the Republican Party.
With Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman jumping to the lead in a new poll, the hard-core right smelled a chance to remold the GOP in the image of raucous town hall protests and “tea party” rallies of the summer.
“Moderates by definition have no principles,” Limbaugh huffed on his radio show yesterday. He predicted that “RINOs” – a putdown acronym of “Republicans In Name Only” – “may become extinct.”
Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava quit the race Saturday after relentless attacks by Hoffman backers, who called her too liberal.
Democrats, led by the Obama White House, aimed to exploit the turmoil by winning a district their party hasn’t held since the 19th century.
“The most extreme wing of the Republican Party made it clear in this campaign that they’re not going to tolerate any dissent,” Vice President Biden said as he stumped in Watertown, near the Canadian border, for Democratic candidate Bill Owens.
Biden mocked Palin, his 2008 vice presidential opponent, who backs Hoffman.
“Sarah Palin thinks the answer to energy is ‘Drill, baby, drill,'” Biden said. “It’s a lot more complicated, Sarah.”
The former Alaska governor retorted on her Facebook page: “There’s one way to tell Vice President Biden that we’re tired of folks in Washington distorting our message and hampering our nation’s progress: Hoffman, Baby, Hoffman!”
A Siena poll shows Hoffman leading by 5 points, with 18% of voters undecided.
Biden urged centrists to vote for Owens to “teach a lesson” to the right. Meanwhile, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani made robocalls for the Conservative.
GOP leaders gradually abandoned Scozzafava after Limbaugh and others, including Fox News’ Glenn Beck, hit her as too liberal for her record of voting pro-labor, pro-choice and pro-gay marriage.
Since her withdrawal, they have united behind Hoffman. Scozzafava, wooed by the White House, backs Democrat Owens for the seat, which was vacated by former Republican Rep. John McHugh.
New York Daily News