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Campaign’s Focus: The Candidate Who Wasn’t There

The final day of the campaign for Congress was a wild one, with Doug Hoffman and Bill Owens continuing to spend time on the candidate who isn’t in the race anymore.

Hoffman, the Conservative Party’s candidate, called for an investigation of Republican Dede Scozzafava’s decision to quit running and, a day later, endorse Democrat Bill Owens.  Owens continued to praise Scozzafava for her decision to back him.

Meantime, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh accused Scozzafava of political “bestiality”.

Scozzafava quit the race Saturday, as new polls showed her slipping into third place.  She told the Post Standard that she was hurt and upset that Republicans she had worked for and with, including ex-Gov. George Pataki, switched allegiance to Hoffman without even the courtesy of a phone call to tell her.

She said she did get phone calls — from thousands of people across the country angry at her once the race had become a national story — and from Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Steve Israel, who called on behalf of the White House, to tell her they were sorry things had turned out the way they had.

Sunday, she broke her neutral stance and endorsed Owens.  It came after Owens praised her in a statement on Saturday while Hoffman’s statement ignored her departure.

Scozzafava’s endorsement set off a fury on the right that continued Monday, as Hoffman’s camp called for a federal investigation of Scozzafava’s endorsement.  “What was she offered,” the news release asked.  “Who did the offering?”

Democratic leaders told Scozzafava she would be welcome in their party, if she should choose to switch.

Radio talk host Rush Limbaugh piled on, telling his audience Monday, “Scozzafava has screwed every RINO (Republican in Name Only) in the country. We could say she’s guilty of widespread bestiality.  She has screwed every RINO in the country.  Everyone can see just how phony and dangerous they (moderates) are.”

Monday also saw the two remaining candidates bring out the star power.

Owens began the day with a rally featuring Vice President Joe Biden.  “This is a good man,” Biden said. “Go out and elect him.”  Owens praised Scozzafava, whose husband, a local labor leader, was in the audience.

Monday night, Hoffman’s own get-out-the-vote rally featured music from conservative supporter John Rich of the country duo Big & Rich, and an endorsement in person from actor and former Senator Fred Thompson.

“You’re gonna see this playing out around the country more and more,” Thompson told WWNY-TV of the movement by conservatives to assert themselves.