The Republicans also have a more fundamental problem: they don’t have a leader. George W Bush is in an outer darkness from which his forthcoming memoirs are unlikely to reclaim him. John McCain is still in the Senate and serving his country, but at 73, and with last year’s defeat on his record, the game is up. And Sarah Palin, who arrived with such a bang, has left with a whimper, weighed down by lawsuits, the towel thrown in in Alaska, and her baroque extended family having become one of America’s favourite soap operas…

With that election almost three years away, nobody wants to be a Republican front-runner and invite early destruction (Sarah Palin, qv). However, media here have already identified two – Tim Pawlenty, the Governor of Minnesota, who strongly supported Mr Hoffman over Miss Scozzafava, and Mitt Romney, the multi-millionaire Mormon who ran for the nomination last year.

Governor Pawlenty sounds like he could be the man to beat – “We cannot send more politicians to Washington who wear the Republican jersey on the campaign trail but then vote like Democrats in Congress,” he said of his desire to back Mr Hoffman. So the fight will be entertaining, and possibly nasty – and that’s before they even take it to Mr Obama.