You guys will dump on him as a johnny-come-lately, but (a) his support for Scozzafava was always strategic, driven more by stopping the Democrats next year than stopping Hoffman and (b) as her most prominent Republican supporter, this is the most important endorsement Hoffman could have right now aside from Scozzafava’s (or maybe Snowe’s or Collins’s). There isn’t much time left before the election and there are bound to be hurt feelings among Team Dede’s Republican loyalists, most of whom probably aren’t all that conservative anyway. To avoid my nightmare scenario of her voters breaking for the Democrat or staying home (and I’m not the only one who thinks it’s possible), every last Republican with an ounce of sway needs to push them to get over it ASAP. Here’s Gingrich setting the tone, no doubt with Romney and Huckabee soon to follow:

Gingrich made the announcement via Twitter shortly after the Republican Party nominee Scozzafava announced she was releasing supporters from their commitment to back her.

“Scozzafava dropping out leaves hoffman as only anti-tax anti-pelosi vote in ny 23 Every voter opposed to tax increases support doug hoffman,” Gingrich wrote on Twitter. (Tweet shown as it appeared)

Boehner, Cantor and NRCC chief Pete Sessions endorsed Hoffman shortly after Scozzafava’s announcement this morning and Steele quickly followed on behalf of the RNC. The big holdout for the moment is Scozzafava herself, who deserves some time to absorb the blow — but not much, given that the polls open in less than 72 hours and the Democrat, Bill Owens, is already making a play for her supporters by talking up how honorable she is.

Here’s video of her in the aftermath of the announcement. (post cont’d below)

A word to the wise: Don’t put much stock in that eyepopping PPP poll that’s going around. It’s based on a partial sample of just 200 interviews; with a number that small, the margin of error is probably in double digits. And a word to the wise for Rick Santorum, who’s hoping that third-party challenger Chris Daggett will take a hint here and drop out in New Jersey, freeing the way for Chris Christie: According to PPP, it ain’t Christie who’s the second choice for Daggett supporters.

Update: Hoffman reaches out:

“I’m certainly going to extend my best wishes to her,” says Hoffman. “The assemblywoman made a very difficult decision for the good of the Republican party. I hope to reach out to her by the end of the day and thank her for making this decision. It’s important for her supporters to know that I’m the conservative Republican in this race. We all need to make sure that we don’t have my Democratic opponent going to Washington.”…

“I will value a relationship with her, using the knowledge and experience she has to help me in representing this district,” says Hoffman. Working with Scozzafava, he adds, is akin to working with all Republicans to help forward conservative and fiscally-responsible policies. “In the last week, I’ve had many senior Republicans come to my aide and endorse me,” he says. “Over 25 congressional Republicans have helped and endorsed me, plus numerous presidential hopefuls.”

Note that, in “releasing” her supporters this morning, Scozzafava pointedly didn’t ask them to vote for the conservative.