The NY-23 special election has been off our radar screen but the boss is blogging up a storm about it, seeing it — as, increasingly, many prominent conservatives do — as a bellwether for the party’s approach to the midterms. The RNC, NRCC, and even Gingrich are all in for liberal Republican Scozzafava; Michelle, Fred Thompson, and the Club for Growth support the upstart fiscal conservative Doug Hoffman. The question: How big should the big tent be? Evidently, per the party leadership, pretty darned big:

Scozzafava is an abortion rights advocate who favors gay marriage.
It would be one thing if Scozzafava balanced that social liberalism with fiscal conservatism. But as a state assemblywoman, she voted for massive tax increases, Democratic budgets and a $180 million state bank bailout. She also supported the trillion-dollar federal stimulus package — which every House Republican voted against.

More troubling, Scozzafava in past elections has embraced the ballot line of the Working Families Party — a socialist outfit whose political DNA is intertwined with scandal-ridden ACORN. ACORN and the WFP have shared office space in New York City, Arkansas and Illinois. ACORN head Bertha Lewis, a close Scozzafava friend and political supporter, wears a second hat as vice chairman of the WFP. The WFP has been listed in ACORN documents dating back to 2000 as an “affiliate.”…

Scozzafava’s husband is a leading upstate New York union organizer. She supports the federal “card-check” legislation that would massively boost union rolls — and Democratic voting rolls — at the expense of rank-and-file workers’ free choice. And for that matter, at the expense of Republican electoral prospects. Card check is the key to a Democratic majority in perpetuity. Big Labor bosses have said as much.

I’m mystified as to how Scozzafava came to be the party’s candidate. Republicans have held the seat with 60+ percent of the vote for more than a decade; they could have named any generic right-winger to succeed John McHugh as rep and he/she would have won in a waltz. Either Scozzafava must have pulled some strings within the state party or the national leadership decided to make this a grand “big tent” gesture by deliberately picking a liberal woman, but the predictable result is an insurgency by a more traditional conservative that’s picking up steam. In fact, Hoffman’s now peeled away enough support from Scozzafava that the Democrat’s in the lead — which I’d normally consider disastrous but, given her record, might not be the worst possible outcome.

If all this reminds you of the Liberman/Lamont showdown three years ago, it should. In fact, a la Special Ned, Hoffman’s taken his campaign to the blogosphere via a new guest-posting on the boss’s site:

With her numbers plummeting – and mine rising – and only three weeks left until the election in NY-23, Dede Scozzafava has decided she needs to change her stripes to get conservative votes…

I don’t think conservatives will be fooled. The more they learn about Dede Scozzafava, the worse she does in the polls. And the more they learn about my campaign, the better we do.

We can win this thing, but we’re up against limited time and an awful RNC and NRCC decision to support a liberal candidate…

If you want to join my fight, I need you. We need money and we need volunteers – boots on the ground. If you can help, go to my website and sign up. Then show up.

Here’s his donation page. Exit question one: Which imbecilic party boss or bosses are responsible for provoking this entirely needless fight? Exit question two: If they were dead set on a big-tent gesture, couldn’t they have found a social liberal who’s at least in favor of small government?

Update: If we’re going to dump on the GOP for its amazing incompetence, we might as well have a laugh.

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Update: Via Karl, an answer to exit question one.

The next month, the district’s 11 Republican county chairmen gathered at a pizzeria in Potsdam to pick a nominee. They were looking for someone with name recognition who could prevail in a shortened campaign when the economy was voters’ top concern. Ms. Scozzafava, a former small-town mayor who has served for a decade in the state legislature, seemed the right choice.

Ms. Scozzafava spent 20 years as a stockbroker. Her family has owned the same auto-parts store in Gouverneur, N.Y., for decades. In March 2008, upset at the sex scandals surrounding former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his successor, David Paterson, Ms. Scozzafava sent a letter to her colleagues blasting an Albany social life “that is somewhere between ‘Girls & Boys Gone Wild’ and a sorority-fraternity style mixer.”

She appealed to the Republican chairmen. “We asked, is it possible to put in place a Republican candidate that uniformly stands for all the conservative values of the far right, but is unelectable?” says William Farber, the Hamilton County chairman. “I would much rather have a candidate like Dede Scozzafava that I don’t agree with 100% of the time, but always has been honest and forthright.”