The Race in NY District 23 has become a pivotal fight for the soul of the Republican Party.

Dede Scozzafava was run by the Republican machine but has been so thoroughly rejected by the Republican grass roots that she has effectively resigned from the race rather than face the disgrace of coming in third.  Republican Doug Hoffman has run under the Conservative party label in an effort to give the voters a truer conservative choice, given Scozzafava’s very liberal voting record.  Hoffman now faces Democrat Bill Owens.

Sides were selected and the Republicans split their support. Dick Army, Fred Thomson, and Sarah Palin have stumped for Hoffman while Newt Gingrich supported the official republican candidate.

This episode mirrors the campaign Joe Lieberman waged to retain his Democrat seat in Connecticut.  The liberal leg of the Democrats took his nomination for his support of Bush and the war in Iraq, but he ran as an independent and won.

Most impressive in this race is the impact of Erick Erickson, an A-list conservative blogger at Red State (and other sites) and a city councilman in our own Macon, GA. If you stop and think of the impact that a young conservative city councilman in Macon can now have in a NY district race you must appreciate the way the political landscape is changing.

Many conservatives were caught off guard by the effective use of the internet and social media by the Obama Campaign. They wished for that power but most did not really understand how to use it. Erick Erickson understands how to use it. It was probably an alarming lesson for the Republican Party elite.  The lesson is that that the era of top down party leadership is over.

The media will probably play that the Republican Party has now been hijacked by the ‘wingnuts’ and populist demagogues. While that may seem a risk it is not a certainty. More likely it will force the party apparatus to listen to those who feel they are without a political home.

Like all new sources of power this may come with a learning curve, but that is price of real change.