It looks as though Sarah Palin has begun a hot new trend among Republican activists — endorsing a non-Republican.  Dick Armey, who runs one of the major Tea Party organizing efforts, endorsed Douglas Hoffman yesterday in the special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional district.  It comes as another blow to Republican Dede Scozzafava, who has imploded over the last week:

On Thursday, Dick Armey, former House Majority Leader after the 1994 Conservative Revolution went to New York’s 23rd Congressional District to endorse and campaign for Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.

The special election, which will be held Nov. 3 to replace former Congressman John McHugh, has unusually important significance for conservatives.  Democrat Bill Owens, and Dede Scozzafava, a Republican who is more liberal than Owens, have been challenged by Mr. Hoffman, a conservative candidate that has captured the support of national leaders like Dick Armey, who’s organization FreedomWorks planned the 9-12 Tea Party rally in Washington, DC.

“We [Republicans] win when we are us. We lose when we are Democrat lite,” he told Redstate.com editor Erick Erickson.  “We attract people by being small government conservatives,” Big Government Republicans, I would tell the Republican Party leadership it cannot win if it insists on recruiting and supporting candidates out of step with the voters.”

Ms. Scozzafava announced she supports Obama’s Stimulus Bill, she is an advocate of Card Check and holds liberal positions on social issues like abortion and homosexual marriage.  The Weekly Standard reports that, if elected, Scozzafava may switch to the Democratic Party for the 2010 elections.

“Listen to Ronald Reagan,” says Armey.  “Reagan said good policy is good politics. My position is to support the candidate who supports policies good for America. That’s what Reagan did too.”

Armey said he does not think the establishment within the Republican Party really understands the mood of the country right now. “There is a sharp difference between now and November. If we knew then what we know now, I doubt Obama would have been elected,” he said.

That statement directly rebuts his former colleague Newt Gingrich, who claimed that Ronald Reagan would have endorsed a pro-choice liberal over a conservative in a special election, too.  Armey focuses on policy rather than party label, which in this case is not terribly difficult to do.  While Scozzafava may not be as far left as some of her detractors argue, she’s certainly no conservative or even a moderate.  What’s more, she’s simply inept — hardly a quality that will rally the conservative base in NY23.

Allahpundit noted last night that Palin’s endorsement carries some moderate risk to her standing if Hoffman loses, especially if he comes in third.  Armey’s endorsement helps Palin, giving her some indirect support, and puts pressure on conservatives within the GOP to follow suit.  Expect Hoffman to collect even more donations and gain more energy from Tea Party enthusiasts in the next two weeks.

Update: This was apparently an open secret before yesterday; I’ve gotten Twitter messages on it since posting this, which point out that Armey actually went public before Palin.  Armey’s press folks only sent the release out this morning, though.

No one can doubt that this is a very public shot across the bow from the Tea Party movement to the GOP, regardless of timing.  Message to the party leadership: Scozzafava is why 73% of Republicans think you’re out of touch.

Update II: Fred Thompson beat them both to it on Tuesday (via The Poolbar on Twitter).