Shortly after Bob Dornan lost his Orange County congressional seat by fewer than 1,000 votes (many of which turned out to be cast illegally), I was talking with a Republican political consultant who said that a number of his associates (in the political consultancy world) had warned the right-wing firebrand that he was in danger of losing to his Democratic opponent because he was neglecting the district.
But, the man who began the year by launching a quixotic quest for the White House, preferred to address his conservative fans across the country than to tend to his constituents in Southern California. He saw himself first and foremost as the leader of a conservative movement and not a representative of California’s 46th House District. And that’s why he no longer represents a district that narrowly went for George H.W. Bush in 1992 and overwhelmingly rejected Barbara Boxer the same year.
With that history in mind, we can perhaps better see another reason Doug Hoffman narrowly lost a congressional seat earlier this week in a district that while historically Republican, went for Barack Obama last fall.
Jim Geraghty echoed a point made by a number of bloggers when he wondered yesterday if anyone asked upstate New Yorkers if they wanted their race nationalized?
Well, perhaps Hoffman’s botching of an interview with the Watertown Daily Times editorial board should have been a red flag.
We junkies of national politics overlook local issues way too easily.
No one ever really asked the voters of this district whether they wanted their House race to be a national fight. I’m slated to appear on Fred Thompson’s radio program today, and I’m a fan of him, and Sarah Palin, and all of the other big-name conservatives who jumped in to beat the drum for Hoffman. But maybe the locals wanted more than criticism of Obama and Pelosi and spending. Maybe the fact that he lived on the other side of the district line rankled with them.
Writing in a similar vein, Ann Althouse studied pictures of the two leading contenders in the race and observed
Owens, by contrast [to Hoffman], is big and rugged-looking. He’s an Air Force veteran and he has that military solidity, calm and self-possession.
He seems like a country guy, and this is a rural district. He presented himself as a centrist. On the human level, Owens is the kind of person voters around here feel comfortable with.
So, it appears in trying to nationalize the election in NY-23, conservatives ignored one of Tip O’Neill’s political maxims “All politics is local.”
A notion Republicans can’t neglect if we want to win back some congressional races next fall.