Doug Hoffman, who twice ran unsuccessfully on the Conservative Party line for Congress and became something of a tea party hero in the process, told me today that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's endorsement of Dede Scozzafava shouldn't count against Mr. Gingrich.
"I've said it consistently since that race, that Newt wasn't given the full information and once he understood what the race was all about, he personally called me and apologized," Mr. Hoffman said. "I think that's water over the dam. That certainly shouldn't be held against him."
As a refresher, in 2009, Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava was the Republican Party's choice in the special election to replace outgoing Republican Rep. John McHugh.
The district was historically Republican. The rise of the tea party and Mr. Hoffman's insurgent candidacy on the Conservative Line — and some pretty brutal campaigning — led Ms. Scozzafava to drop out of the race and endorse a Democrat, Bill Owens.
The battle lines were thus drawn between the establishment and the new tea party. Former Gov. George Pataki, for example, was a Hoffman backer. But Mr. Gingrich went the establishment route by giving Ms. Scozzafava the nod.
That endorsement became toxic, particularly after Ms. Scozzafava's exit from the race, which helped Mr. Owens bring the seat into the blue column for the first time in more than a century, defying tea party trends.
Mr. Gingrich has had to sustain conservative attacks for the endorsement since, and even put up a section on his website to rebut the accusations that he's disloyal to tea party factions because of his support for Ms. Scozzafava.
Interestingly, Mr. Gingrich has had no trouble bringing in tea party support, according to polls.
For his part, Mr. Hoffman isn't weighing in on the presidential race yet. The candidates who remain are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Mr. Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
"I'm kind of sitting back and watching," Mr. Hoffman said. "I'm not endorsing any candidate. All of them would make great candidates to run against President Obama."
Mr. Hoffman said he's considering another run for Congress, but he must first see how congressional lines are drawn. His Lake Placid home is just outside the 23rd Congressional District. If he's in the same district as Mr. Owens, he'll be much more likely to run again.