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Doug Hoffman Vs. His Narrative

Dave Weigel has a great dispatch from New York’s 23rd district today in The Washington Independent that’s packed with juicy anecdotes, like Fred Thompson choking up as he introduced Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman (if only he’d shown such commitment to his presidential bid!). What makes the Thompson detail so interesting is the extent to which it highlights the differences between the narrative building around Hoffman and his own temperament. As Weigel tells it, the teary introduction in front of 400 cheering Tea Party-types

...all led up to a political speech that was notable largely for its meekness. As Hoffman shifted his weight from side to side and glanced down at his notes, he tossed out only two pieces of red meat — an attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a promise not to let government “take over health care.” With the rest of his time — less than four minutes — Hoffman talked broadly about bringing jobs back to the district. “I’m going to make sure that everything we can do for Fort Drum, we do it,” he said. “I’m going to make sure that, you know, Watertown, with new jobs, new businesses, and new economy, that’s going to carry us through for the next 20, 30, 50 years.”

On both the left and the right, Hoffman’s been portrayed as a right-wing insurgent, but as Weigel points out, Hoffman’s actually bashful and awkward, both while stumping and talking to the press. Now it appears that conservative hype alone (and not the personal merits of the candidate himself) is giving him a serious shot at winning, which is why I think this race is really significant. It won’t be surprising if Creigh Deeds, nice guy though he may be, loses, because he was a lousy candidate. But if Hoffman wins, it will be because the hype surrounding him became more powerful than the reality, which is that he, too, is a lousy candidate.