Earlier today the Washington Independent’s Dave Weigel spoke with conservative pollster Rick Shaftan of Neighborhood Research. Shaftan has released a post-mortem memo and survey on the NY-23 special election in which Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, who enjoyed the backing of major national figures such as Sarah Palin and Marilyn Musgrave, lost to Democratic candidate Bill Owens. The memo suggests the problem was bad distracted strategery, underlining Hoffman’s inexperience and the limitations of the support provided by his powerful backers.
Some of Shaftan’s arguments, summarized by Weigel:
– Dede Scozzafava’s endorsement of Owens — which the Democrats sought while Hoffman notably did nothing — “hurt with independent voters.”
– The Hoffman campaign was too focused on Scozzafava and “should have shifted the attack to Owens once she fell into third.”
– The presence of outside groups for Hoffman “may have backfired to a slight extent” because it “emphasized Hoffman’s poor grasp of local issues.” Shaftan singled out freewheeling FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey for some blame here, as Armey dismissed the local issues that tripped up Hoffman as “parochial issues.”
– Hoffman’s attacks on earmarks also backfired, because it was “turned around as an attack on Fort Drum,” a huge employer in the district.
– Hoffman should have nailed Owens as what he turned out to be — a key vote for health care reform.
Shaftan’s poll is here: