The question has finally been answered. If Doug Hoffman loses to Matt Doheny in the GOP primary later this month, he'll remain in the race on the Conservative line.
At last night's debate between the two would-be Republican challengers to Democratic incumbent Bill Owens, the Saranac Lake accountant finally answered the question that has been swirling for months.
“People think that I’m the spoiler because I’m not going to get out of the race. People that get the Conservative line, have to stay on the Conservative line once they take it,” Hoffman said. “The spoiler in this race is Matt Doheny because he is trying to get the Republican line, knowing very well that he can’t get the Conservative line.”
Both men claim to have their fingers on the collective pulse of conservatives in New York's 23rd Congressional District. Who is right won't be known until after the primary.
But Hoffman's strategy for victory may be much more apparent now. If Doheny wins, it appears, there will be a three-way race in November. Such a three-way -- pitting tea partiers versus moderates -- would surely constitute a huge boost for Owens and his reelection bid.
So, as it stands now, when a Republican voter enters the voting booth on September 14, they will be faced with a conundrum -- a Catch 22 that could very well shape how they cast their ballot.
Is voting for Doheny a vote for Owens?
This voter may well prefer Doheny to Hoffman, but may also prefer either man to Owens. This effect could very well send many more GOP votes in Hoffman's direction then he would have otherwise garnered.
Hoffman is holding Republicans hostage. His statement to Republicans is essentially this; "Either vote for me or I will torpedo this whole damn thing."
His approach may seem bullish at best and maybe a little childish. It brings images of a scorned third-grader to my head when I think about it.
But it could prove highly effective on primary day and that is the end goal here, after all.
Doheny argues he is the best suited to face off against Bill Owens and comments made by UNYTEA Chairman Mark Barie -- who has endorsed Hoffman -- suggest he agrees with the Watertown banker's assessment.
But Doheny has pledged to back whoever wins the GOP primary. He has pledged to not force a three-way race if it's left up to him. And this pledge, and his commitment to upholding it, may be his undoing.