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In a war within GOP, the right wins a battle

Dede Scozzafava leaves voters a choice between Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman and Democrat Bill Owens, shown here.
Dede Scozzafava leaves voters a choice between Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman and Democrat Bill Owens, shown here. (AP)
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"This selfless act of releasing her supporters provides voters with the opportunity to unite around a candidate who shares Republican principles and will serve the interests of his constituents in Congress by standing in opposition to the liberal policies of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi," said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele.

A blow to Democrats?

Democrats thought the three-way race could result in Owens winning a plurality of votes in the district, where the last non-Republican to win the seat "was a Whig," joked a local councilman. Still, Obama won the district last year and Hillary Rodham Clinton carried it in her 2006 Senate reelection victory.

Political strategists said Scozzafava's departure is likely to benefit Hoffman, who has been attracting independent voters as well as conservatives.

"While the circumstances in this race are unusual, the one constant factor at play -- both locally and nationally -- has been that independent voters continue to peel away from the Democrats and gravitate toward the right," said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee.

When Hoffman visited McSweeney's Red Hots here last week, he told folks that he entered the race "because it's principle over party." As he polished off a chili dog, Pam Murray Wojtowicz asked from across the counter: "You know why I got involved? Joe the Plumber! I met him at CPAC in Washington. He said, 'You've got to get involved.' And now I'm a City Council member in Saratoga Springs."

"I'm a Ronald Reagan Republican," she added, "and we don't need another wishy-washy, let's-be-like-the-Democrats candidate."

Rucker reported from Washington.

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