Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
With Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman opening up a big lead (or smaller but still sizable lead) heading into tomorrow's special congressional election in upstate New York, Marco Rubio is already being hailed as the next beneficiary of conservative support in an intra-GOP battle.
Rubio, the former Florida House Speaker, is challenging Gov. Charlie Crist in an open U.S. Senate contest next year. Crist was quickly embraced by national Republicans as the candidate most likely to hold the seat, but as governor he has not been conservative enough to suit Rubio or many other Republicans.
The race was already considered a prime battleground between conservative "core principle" Republicans and pragmatists who think moderation or a bigger tent is the way to win elections. Now Rubio is launching a new online fundraising site explicitly tying the appeal of his candidacy to that of Hoffman.
Politico has a piece looking at the rising tension between activists and party leaders.
"I don't give a crap about party," said Jennifer Bernstone, a tea party organizer for Central New York 912, which helped to lead the anti-Scozzafava charge. "Grass-roots activists don't care about party."
Says Everett Wilkinson, a tea party organizer in Florida: "We are not going to allow our [movement] to be stolen by the GOP or by any political party."
Numerous GOP officials have told POLITICO they worry that the party has been hijacked by a noisy and powerful minority that will keep the GOP in a noisy and not-so-powerful minority for a long time.
It will be impossible for GOP leaders to make this case anytime soon. The trick, instead, will be to find common ground on running conservative candidates who appeal to activists but can also run campaigns not entirely predicated on the hardest edges of their conservatism.
The Virginia governor's race, which will also be decided Tuesday, could be the prototype for this kind of compromise.
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