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Obama campaigns for conservative Democrat

President Obama is finding a new version of bipartisanship, taking time out of his busy schedule to speak at a fundraiser for a New York congressional candidate who makes no secret of his more conservative leanings.

Obama’s appearance tonight is on behalf of Democratic candidate Bill Owens, who polls show is running slightly ahead of a more liberal Republican and an even more conservative opponent. All three are sparring in a special election for the congressional seat vacated when Obama named moderate Republican John M. McHugh to be secretary of the Army.

The congressional race has become of microcosm of the political confusions that are rumbling through the major political parties this year. Democrats are split between liberal and conservative wings that are finding it hard to fashion common ground on key issues such as healthcare reform. While Republicans, wanting to keep the energy of conservatives’ unhappiness, are having a hard time finding a place for the moderates they need for electoral success.

The 23rd Congressional District is deep in upstate New York near the Canadian border and includes Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. It has sent only Republicans to Congress since around the Civil War. Tonight, Obama is expected to speak well of Owens, who opposes a robust public option in the healthcare reform debate. He also opposes same-sex marriage, which is backed by Republican Dierdre Scozzafava, a New York assemblywoman since 1998. She is also pro-abortion rights. Among her supporters is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Complicating the picture is the Conservative Party, which has long outgrown its origin as a cat's-paw of the GOP to become the tail that often wags the feline, at least in New York politics.

On the conservative side, riding a wave of discontent with Democrats and moderate Republicans is Doug Hoffman, who opposes gay and abortion rights and sees himself as the true Republican, having gained the endorsement of the GOP right, including the Club for Growth, the Family Research Council Action PAC and even former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. How to deal with conservatives has become a key question for the national GOP after a summer of tea-party demonstrations and abrasive town hall meetings.

Because this is an off-year election, it is sure to be seized on as another straw in the wind for 2010.

– Michael Muskal

 
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Obama's visit will be the end for Owens.

Watch most of the independents and moderate (not liberal) Republicans move over to Hoffman's corner after tonight. Obama's (socialist) policies are toxic in this region.

It's so nice to see that Obama is keeping his word and taking conservative comments into consideration when it comes to creating his policys.

Adding insult to insult, the DEM 11-country chairs picked Owens, an INDY, and not even a registered DEM. He won't be one officially until after the election ... a dozen of us worked like dogs for the nomination and a few of us had even run before against McHugh (I did in 1994). Loyal DEMS - you bet I am, but loyalty obviously is a one-way street with the DEM "leaders" around here with the Owens pick. His stance now (esp on health care option) is now more clear and they goofed - bigtime. Shameful.

When the Republicans lose this seat in northern New York in 2 weeks it will be yet another sign that today's Republican party is about as popular as a venereal disease and has about as much chance in electoral politics in the next 10 years as the Green Party. The party of Limbaugh the drug addict and Beck the bipolar hatemonger may be good for ratings and 20% of the country, but the rest of us 80% think they are absolutely insane.

August, 2009 will be seen as the high point for the Republicans and teabaggers. Even the conservative WaPo/ABC poll yesterday shows that only 20% of Americans identify as Republicans, the lowest in history: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/morning-fix/morning-fix-beating-something.html?hpid=topnews

"Less than one in five voters (19%) expressed confidence in Republicans' ability to make the right decisions for America's future while a whopping 79% lacked that confidence."

Typical of LA Times - because Owens isn't down with communism they call him Conservative. He is faaaaar from Conservative. He's a Liberal ambulance- chasing trial laywer.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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