While the Yankees and Phillies duke it out in the World Series, another major slugfest is unfolding in upstate New York that may affect the 2010 midterm elections and 2012 presidential election.
Brace yourself, folks, this could lead to a civil war inside the GOP.
The inconsequential 2009 election is fast approaching, and before one vote has been counted, political analysts have been going over the tea leaves for any impact it may have on the midterm elections and whether President Obama will be able push his full agenda through Congress before seeking re-election in 2012.
Next Tuesday is Election Day for New Jersey and Virginia residents. Also casting their votes that day will be the good folks who reside in upstate New York, otherwise known as the 23rd Congressional District, the scene of a nasty and bitterly fought special election between Republican Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava and Doug Hoffman, a Conservative Party nominee.
National and upstate GOP leaders chose Scozzafava as their candidate after GOP Rep. John McHugh resigned to accept an appointment to serve as secretary of the Army. Scozzafava, who has received the endorsement of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Rifle Association and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, among others, is under attack from some inside the Republican Party because she is seen as not adhering to the strict principles of conservatism.
In other words, right-wing conservatives do not view her as ideologically pure enough to represent the GOP in Washington.
Because these two candidates are going after each other tooth and nail, Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate, has a shot of coming up the middle. If a Democrat wins this seat, the entire message on election night will not be about Obama or the two gubernatorial races in Virginia or New Jersey — it will be about the fractured and dysfunctional Republican Party.
Since the summer, Republicans have enjoyed a brief respite from being written off as simply the party of naysayers. With the nation's slow economic growth, bailout fatigue and a war-weary public, Republicans appeared to be on the verge of staging a comeback as they coalesced around an agenda of stopping Obama from achieving his single most important domestic agenda: real health insurance reform.
Now, however, the GOP appears to be on the brink of a civil war. Worried Republican leaders in Washington know that to win the majority of midterm elections, they must broaden their party's voter base — recent polls suggest that less than 25 percent of all voters are self-identified Republicans — and erase the many lingering negative impressions voters have about the GOP. But the bloodbath in the New York race indicates that the GOP will be stuck in the political wilderness for another electoral season for having forgotten one of President Ronald Reagan's golden rules: "The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor."
To be sure, there will be some bright signs for the minority party on Election Night. Most political observers are counting on a GOP win in Virginia, where Attorney General Robert McDonnell has run a flawless campaign and Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds has not been able to articulate why he is running for governor. (It didn't help Deeds' cause among base democratic voters that he snubbed Obama publicly.)
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, it looks like Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, armed with a massive personal war chest, might just hold off his two opponents.
If the GOP is not able to bring all its factions under the same tent, the civil war could easily spread beyond New York and into Florida, Texas, California and beyond.
In Florida, GOP Gov. Charlie Crist has picked up a challenger in conservative former House Speaker Marco Rubio. Texas will feature a battle between incumbent GOP Gov. Rick Perry and GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson. (Perry is seen as the "real" conservative in the race, but don't tell that to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who recently signaled that he will stump for Hutchinson.) And in California, businessman Al Ramirez is thinking about challenging Republican-backed candidate Carly Fiorina in her bid to unseat Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.
In all honestly, Democrats are still staggering into their new role as the majority party. And, yes, even I will admit that there are more brands of Democrats than Ben & Jerry's has flavors. But isn't that what helped make us the majority party? We actually embrace the Reagan philosophy conservative Republicans have rejected.
At some point, folks need to come to grips with the fact that no one candidate is perfect. Nor should we demand perfection. What we should demand from all candidates, however, is civility, common-sense solutions, a strong work ethic, a desire to help others and, like Reagan and Obama, the ability to find the good in those with whom we disagree.
Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR; contributing columnist to Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill; and former campaign manager for Al Gore.