It looks like freshman Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-23) caught another lucky break, and once again has a path to victory opened up by vote splitting on the right. GOP primary loser Doug Hoffman says he will still campaign in earnest on the Conservative Party ballot line. In New York State, candidates can be nominated by more than one party and can appear on the ballot under multiple party banners.
Owens won the 2009 special election thanks in large part to a split of the right-leaning vote. The conservative base did not think the Republican establishment pick, Dede Scozzafava, was conservative enough, and rallied around Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman. (How un-conservative!) Even if Hoffman doesn’t run a particularly successful campaign this time (due to a lack of outside support), taking even a relative handful of right-leaning votes from Republican Matt Doheny could be enough to help Owens win re-election. (This is why, as a general principle, I support instant runoff voting so voters are not forced to choose a second-worst choice to prevent their least favorite candidate from winning.)
Holding on to the House through pure luck
If Democrats manage to barely hold on to their House majority by a few seats, it might wind up being due to a series of very lucky breaks, like this vote splitting in NY-23, or the GOP primary victory of political train wreck Raúl Labrador in ID-01. These are seats the Republicans should have won easily in this environment.
The Republicans need a net gain of 39 seats, and that requires winning around 43 Democratic seats to make up for expected loses in places like DE-AL and HI-01. That is not an easy task, even in a very favorable environment. Losing even a handful of what should have been guaranteed races because of bad candidates or ideological infighting rapidly makes taking the House that much harder.
There is at least the possibility Democrats will keep a slim majority in the House thanks to blind luck in some very red districts. Sadly, at this point, “blind luck” seems like as good of a campaign strategy as anything the Democratic leadership has come up with. . . or, more importantly, failed to come up with this year.