Certainly, the conventional wisdom would be that when the Republican candidate suspends her campaign and encourages her supporters to vote for someone else, it would help the Conservative candidate more than the Democrat. And that's where the betting is on Intrade, where Conservative Doug Hoffman has shot up from having a 50 percent chance of winning NY-23's special election to a 67 percent chance on the news this morning.
The reality may be more complicated.
Consider the Siena poll out this morning, which has all sorts of useful cross-tabs. Scozzafava's supporters in this poll:
-- Have a favorable view of Barack Obama by a 64-31 margin.
-- Have an unfavorable view of Hoffman 15-57.
-- Have an unfavorable view of Democrat Bill Owens, 19-50.
It's not quite so clear how Hoffman stands to benefit from this. Although a majority of Scozzafava's supporters are Republican (about 62 percent, by my reckoning), it is safe to assume that they are mostly rather moderate Republicans, because almost all the conservative Republicans had already gone over to Hoffman. To wit, two-thirds of Scozzafava's supporters say they like Barack Obama. While moderate Republicans are an endangered species elsewhere in the country, that is not true in upstate New York, where a lot of voters are registered as Republicans and vote that way in statewide races but often vote Democratic in federal races. (NY-23 supported Barack Obama 52-47 last November.)
The reality is that a lot of Scozzafava's ex-supporters, many of whom don't like either Hoffman or Owens, simply won't vote. And some of them will still wind up casting their ballots for Scozzafava undaunted, as she'll still appear on the ballot and may have made herself something of a sympathetic figure. Certainly, it would seem to help Hoffman if Scozzafava decided to endorse him -- but only 15 percent of Scozzafava's voters had a favorable view of Hoffman, so they aren't going to come over easily, if at all. (EDIT: It's not clear if Scozzafava has in fact endorsed Hoffman, as the reporting is somewhat contradictory on this -- most sources, apart from the AP, say that she's made no endorsement.)
If I had to guess, I'd think that of Scozzafava's support, one-quarter of people don't vote, one-quarter vote for Scozzafava anyway, 30 percent defect to Hoffman and 20 percent defect to Owens. Extrapolating from the morning's Siena poll, that would produce a result of Hoffman 43, Owens 42, Scozzafava 5, with 10 percent of the voters still up for grabs.
Gun to my head? Sure, I'd take Hoffman at this point. But I'd also take the short side of the 67 percent odds that he's been given at Intrade.
(EDIT: If there's been no endorsement from Scozzafava, then I'm not sure that I'd necessarily give Hoffman any more of her votes than Owens. On the other hand, as I wrote yesterday, I think the enthusiasm/turnout side of the story may have been underplayed here and that dynamic benefits Hoffman.)
UPDATE (3:30 PM). Tom Jensen at PPP reports that he had a poll in the field this morning that was showing very good numbers for Hoffman, although how much emphasis we should give to unweighted, small-sample polling conducted on Halloween morning, I don't know. I would say that if Hoffman wins, it will tend to because of factors that were already in place before Scozzafava's withdraw.