Washington (CNN) - Conservatives declaring victory in New York's 23rd congressional district are way off base - and outsiders like himself shouldn't have any say over the local party's decisions, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told reporters the morning after the GOP lost the district for the first time in over a century to Democrat Bill Owens.
Steele, celebrating the GOP's twin gubernatorial wins at RNC headquarters in Washington, was defending his own decision to back Dede Scozzafava - the embattled local Republican pick who drew conservative attacks - until she left the race in the campaign's final weekend.
Of course, plenty of other high-profile Republicans did weigh in on the race, including Fred Thompson, Sarah Palin, and Tim Pawlenty, all of whom backed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman before Scozzafava's exit. The GOP infighting in NY-23 "serves as an important lesson on how we manage an opportunity to win a seat - and how not to..." said Steele, who vowed to "get that seat back" in 2010.
"I don't see a victory in losing seats," said Steele. "…I want more Republicans, I don't buy that we somehow find victory in defeat."
(CNN) - The three-way race in New York's 23rd congressional district ended Tuesday night with a surprise Democratic win - the first for the party in the reliably-Republican district since the 19th century.
Democrat Bill Owens defeated Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman to claim victory in a race where an internal GOP fight drew national attention - and forced the party's candidate, Dede Scozzafava, out of the campaign.
National Democrats, smarting over gubernatorial losses in New Jersey and Virginia, seized on the win, with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine dubbing it "perhaps the most consequential race of the night."
"This race turned out to be the worst of all possible worlds for Republicans as not only did the Democrat, Bill Owens, win a seat that Democrats have not held in more than 100 years, but what occurred in New York has exposed a war within the Republican Party that will not soon end," said Kaine.
"It played itself out in Pennsylvania earlier this year when longtime Republican Senator Arlen Specter became a Democrat and is playing itself out in House, Senate and Gubernatorial races nationwide. The all out war between Republicans and the far right wing is a disaster for the Republican Party and will dog it well after today," Kaine added.
Earlier this fall, Hoffman was a clear underdog, but as the campaign to replace Rep. John McHugh drew to a close he was considered a solid favorite. He benefitted from decisions made by national Republicans after Scozzafava left the race and also was able to take advantage of decisions made by the national GOP long before it backed his candidacy.
Weeks before endorsing Hoffman's bid, the party ended its attacks on Hoffman and focused its fire solely on Bill Owens - an unusual move when the biggest threat to the Republican candidate, then holding a narrow advantage, was coming from the right.
In the race's final days, Hoffman had the momentum. A Siena survey conducted Sunday and released Monday suggested he'd gained 6 points since Scozzafava's withdrawal, and held a 5-point edge over Owens heading into Election Day.
But there were underlying signs that Hoffman couldn't count on a win, even in the heavily Republican district.
(CNN) – Republican Chris Christie defeated incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine Tuesday, giving the GOP a rare Northeast win and a sweep of the night's gubernatorial races.
The former New Jersey attorney general became the first Republican governor of the state since 1997, and the first challenger to defeat an incumbent governor since Christie Todd Whitman defeated Democrat Jim Florio in 1993.
Corzine, who trailed Christie by double digits in several summer surveys, battled his way back to a statistical tie with his GOP challenger for much of the race's final weeks.
Despite Corzine's dismal poll numbers, he came into the race with a solid structural advantage. The former swing state has turned blue in recent years, with a majority-Democratic congressional delegation, two Democratic senators, and a Democratic hold on the governor's mansion for more than a decade.
President Obama, who won the state by a double-digit margin last fall and remains popular in the Garden State, visited several times to campaign on the governor's behalf.
Washington (CNN) - If Democrats suffer a loss in an upstate New York congressional race Tuesday, it could well spark an uneasy celebration among Republican leaders.
The party establishment, still in rebuilding mode heading into next year's midterm elections, watched helplessly this weekend as Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava was driven from the race by grass-roots activists in favor of a more conservative candidate.
Finding out whether Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman wins or loses won't resolve the race's biggest mystery: What does the successful inner-party insurgency in the race mean for the GOP in the Tea Party era?
"As a matter of fact, only Republicans have offered solutions to lower health-care costs and make it easier to obtain quality, affordable coverage without imposing a massive burden on the American people," Boehner said in the weekly Republican radio and Web address.
"We first released our health-care plan in June, and over the last six months, we have introduced at least eight bills that, taken together, would implement this blueprint," he said.
The GOP released the guiding principles of its health-care agenda in June, but did not release a comprehensive legislative blueprint at that point. Republican congressional leaders have said the party is in the process of crafting a substitute.
On the official GOP Web site, to which Boehner referred, the party pledges to formally offer its own plan during upcoming floor debate on the bill introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The site says the Republican proposal will incorporate all or part of the elements of health-care bills introduced by individual members, and a health-care plan introduced by the Republican Study Committee.
(CNN) - San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Friday that he was ending his gubernatorial bid.
"It is with great regret I announce today that I am withdrawing from the race for governor of California," he said in a statement. "With a young family and responsibilities at city hall, I have found it impossible to commit the time required to complete this effort the way it needs to – and should be – done."
Earlier this month, former President Bill Clinton had endorsed Newsom, running against California Attorney General Jerry Brown. Brown and Clinton were themselves primary rivals in the 1992 presidential campaign, when Clinton defeated the former governor in California's presidential primary.
Clinton weighed in on another Democratic primary race earlier this year, when he backed former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe's unsuccessful bid for the party's gubernatorial nomination in Virginia.
(CNN) - Nearly $1.8 million worth of ad spending has flooded the airwaves in New York's 23rd congressional district in the runup to next week's special election to fill that seat.
Democrat Bill Owens, the SEIU, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have spent more than $822,000 so far, with the majority of that money coming from Owens, according to an analysis by TNSMI-CMAG, CNN's consultant on political advertising. Embattled Republican Dede Scozzafava's campaign, the state party and the National Republican Congressional Committee have laid out $536,072 in support of her bid - but just under $67,000 has come from the state assemblywoman's cash-poor campaign.
And roughly $429,000 worth of ads have aired on Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman's behalf, with the majority of those funds coming from the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.
When the Club for Growth's $287,000 in TV ads aimed at swaying conservative-leaning voters on Hoffman's behalf first hit the airwaves a few weeks ago, Scozzafava enjoyed a slim but statistically significant edge in this Republican-leaning district: A Siena survey released earlier this month, before the Club for Growth and Hoffman ads hit the airwaves, found she held a 7-point edge over Owens, 35-28 percent. Hoffman registered 16 percent – despite the fact that roughly 7 in 10 of those polled didn't know who he was. The seat's previous occupant, former GOP Rep. John McHugh – who left office to serve as President Obama's Secretary of the Army – won re-election in 2008 by nearly 2-to-1 over his Democratic challenger.
(CNN) - If Democrat Bill Owens manages to claim victory in next month's special congressional election in upstate New York, he'll have some unlikely benefactors to thank.
In an echo of the Sen. Arlen Specter-Pat Toomey fight that prompted the Pennsylvania senator to abandon the GOP - many of the toughest attacks on the Republican nominee, state assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, are coming from voters who identify themselves as conservatives. The catcalls from the right became a chorus Thursday, with simultaneous noon editorials from major conservative media outlets - including the National Review, Washington Times, and RedState.com - all calling on Scozzafava to withdraw from the race, citing a run-in earlier this week with a conservative journalist.
The GOP candidate, said the Washington Examiner, "should withdraw from the special election campaign for New York's 23rd congressional district. And donors to the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which funded Scozzafava, should demand their money back."
The national party re-affirmed its support for Scozzafava. "The NRCC supports Dede in this race," said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay. "We will continue to remind central and northern New Yorkers that a vote for Doug Hoffman or Bill Owens is a vote for Nancy Pelosi and her far left, radical agenda."
Both Owens and Scozzafava - but particularly the Republican candidate - have been hit hard by conservatives backing third-party candidate Doug Hoffman, who has now pulled within single digits of the GOP's pick in the most recent survey of district voters.
The campaign for this House seat is the latest display of disaffection from the conservative base over the national GOP's recent candidate recruitment efforts. Hoffman has nabbed the backing of New York's Conservative Party, which generally supports Republican nominees – a nod that, in a state where candidates can run under multiple party lines, can often provide the edge in narrow races.
(Update after the jump: Sarah Palin weighs in)
(CNN) - Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is dismissing Democratic campaigns to paint him as the man steering the Republican Party, and media frenzies over his most controversial comments.
"The media didn't make me, and they can't break me," he said in a portion of an NBC interview that aired Monday.
"I am not the leader of the Republican Party. Don't want to be the leader of the Republican Party," said Limbaugh. "It's silly for them to keep talking about how I'm the leader of anything, it's just creating more curiosity about me. It's 21 years, more popular than ever. Lord, thank you for my enemies."
In interview excerpts released by the network, Limbaugh said he had been moved by the election of the nation's first black president - "but I got over it pretty quickly."
Obama's election has heightened racial discord, he said. "I predicted to you it was going to exacerbate racial problems, and it has," said Limbaugh. "There's a race industry in the country. They make money off it. They have fame and fortune off of it. And I predicted exactly what's happened.
"Any criticism of President Obama is going to be said to be oriented in racism. And if you don't like his health care bill, it's racist. If you don't like his cap and trade, it's racist."
Limbaugh also said grateful for the prescription drug addiction that forced him into treatment six years ago.
"I actually thank God for my addiction," he said. "I learned more about myself in rehab than I would have ever learned otherwise."
Follow Rebecca Sinderbrand on Twitter: @sinderbrandrcnn
(CNN) - Mitt Romney, continuing to lay the groundwork for a possible 2012 presidential run, will officially endorse Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey Tuesday in Philadelphia.
It's a move that marks the progress Romney has made in shoring up bonds with some key conservative constituencies. Just over two years ago, with Romney's presidential effort in full swing, Toomey raised questions about the former Massachusetts governor's record on fiscal issues.