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what other people think

So, What’s Going On in NY-23?

Owens, Hoffman, Scazzofava.

What began as just another sleepy special congressional election in New York's vast upstate 23rd district long ago turned into something much more significant: a symbolic struggle for the direction of the GOP as it tries to emerge from the wilderness. Moderate Dede Scazzofava had been handpicked by a few county party leaders because they thought she'd win. The grassroots cried foul, and threw its support behind Republican turned Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman. Sarah Palin and a flood of other national leaders followed. This weekend, things got even more intriguing, as Scazzofava dropped out of the race owing to poor poll numbers, and shocked everyone by endorsing Democrat Bill Owens. With only one day left, it appears that Hoffman has the upper hand, but there are too many unknowns right now to really tell for sure. Here's what the latest polls are telling us, and what people think a Hoffman victory could mean if he pulls it off.

• First, the polls: PPP has Hoffman easily besting Owens 54–38, with 8 percent undecided, but Siena has Hoffman beating Owens by only 41–36, with 18 percent undecided. [PPP, Siena]

• Eric Kleeeld argues that "[w]hen two reputable pollsters differ, the tie should probably go to the local one, Siena, in terms of which to put greater faith in." [TPM DC]

• Josh Marshall thinks that the "very high number of undecideds is made up overwhelmingly of former Scazzofava voters who are now uncertain about who to support. Remember, Scazzofava endorsed Owens yesterday afternoon." [TPM]

• Indeed, many of those polled probably hadn't even heard that Scazzofava had dropped out and endorsed Owens, because they were busy being regular people and not reading newspapers. Kate Pickert says that this means "the election now comes down to the ground game and getting out the vote." It'll be the union machine versus the Republican grassroots. [Swampland/Time]

• Pollster Stan Greenberg looks at the surprisingly large number of undecideds and concludes that "this is still a wide open race." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Jonathan Martin and Charles Mahtesian have the story on how the White House and the DSCC scrambled to get GOP moderate Scazzofava to buck her party and endorse Democrat Owens after she dropped out of the race. [Politico]

• Chris Cillizza tries to figure out how much Scazzofava's endorsement will matter. It comes only 72 hours before the election and "can be painted by her detractors as ... sour grapes," but it at least "keeps Owens in the game in a race that as recently as Sunday morning seemed totally over for the Democrat." [Fix/WP]

• So what will the special election mean in a larger sense? Nothing — or anything you want it to. Chuck Todd and friends say that "Hoffman's likely victory is either the first anecdote political analysts will use to explain how the GOP built itself back up as a grassroots party to nominate (insert semi-unknown Republican here) and defeat Obama in 2012. Or it will become what Democrats see as an ideological fight that turned off the political middle and set the stage for Obama to win re-election, thanks to a Republican Party that couldn't appeal to independents." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Marc Ambinder explains why the White House isn't sweating the potential to lose special elections around the country tomorrow. In fact, it all fits nicely into their evil-genius plan for domination in 2012. [Atlantic]

• Daily Kos leader Markos Moulitsas claims that what happens tomorrow is inconsequential. "The true import of this race has already been determined — the teabagger coup and message to the few remaining non-doctrinaire Republicans that they are no longer welcomed in their party." [Daily Kos]

• Michael Tomasky writes that a Hoffman win might "encourage conservatives, feeling their oats, to impose rigid ideological [sic] on candidates in more primaries. In the long term, whether my wing-ish readers want to admit it or not, that's a recipe for shrinking the party." [Guardian UK]

• The Wall Street Journal editorial board, perhaps surprisingly, worries about the same thing. [WSJ]

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Photo: Courtesy of Bill Owens, Doug Hoffman, Dede Scazzofava