You’d think some reputable pollster would be interested in asking that question given the national interest in the race, but at the moment, the last three polls taken in the district were sponsored by the Club for Growth, the Minuteman PAC, and, um, Daily Kos. No surprise on the split, either: The two conservative groups have Hoffman up by four or five points while dKos has the Democrat ahead by the same margin. Whichever it is, there seems to be no dispute that Scozzafava’s a distant third. WaPo’s hearing from multiple sources that it’s now a two-man race between Hoffman and Owens, and that’s exactly how the DCCC is playing it:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its allies have not run advertisements attacking Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava for about two weeks, sources confirm. Instead, the party has focused solely on knocking down Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.

Meanwhile, Democratic strategists in Washington are privately beginning to downplay expectations for the race, hinting that they would not be surprised if Hoffman were to win outright, defeating both Scozzafava and attorney Bill Owens (D).

Two recent polls, both commissioned by conservative organizations that support Hoffman, show the Conservative leading both his rivals. Public polls have showed Hoffman trailing Owens and Scozzafava, but sources in Hoffman’s camp and among Democrats with knowledge of the race each say private polls show a two-way contest between Hoffman and Owens, leaving Scozzafava out in the cold.

“This race is neck and neck between Owens and Hoffman,” said DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer.

No surprise, then, that their latest fundraising e-mail is aimed at Palin and the “tea party folks” who are trying to get Hoffman elected. And yet — the NRCC continues to dump money on Scozzafava’s campaign, even as the stream of prominent Republicans endorsing Hoffman flows ever onward. Why? It’s tempting to think they’re doing it purely out of spite, to try to kneecap the guy who dared oppose their handpicked candidate, but if they go down with Team Dede’s ship and Hoffman wins anyway, they’ll look like even bigger schmucks than they already do. I assume the answer is that, a la Gingrich, they don’t want to send a message to would-be third-party challengers next year that the GOP might support them over its own nominees if they manage to muster some critical mass of grassroots enthusiasm. That’s a recipe for disaster in the midterms so they’re going to bite the bullet now rather than set a bad precedent. Although who knows? Maybe Scozzafava is so far left that the GOP fears her dropping out of the race would free up more votes for the Democrat at this point than for Hoffman. In which case, propping her up is actually helping the conservative win.

On a related note, here’s Rush touching on the argument raised last night in the Beck post about the folly of third-party challenges. He makes a good point about how sui generis NY-23 is: It’s a special election, which means there was no primary to settle the Hoffman/Scozzafava question, and Scozzafava herself is so liberal that she doesn’t even qualify as a RINO. I’m curious to know, though, which way he’d be leaning if there had been a primary and Team Dede had squeaked through. Beck made his own position on that pretty clear yesterday, declaring that he’ll no longer throw his vote away on centrist Republicans simply because they’re marginally better than Democrats. Rush seems a little warier of that absolutism, which is why he’s at pains to distinguish NY-23 from a normal purple-district race. It’ll be interesting to see how he and Beck grapple with this question next year. Click the image to watch.

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