Dave Weigel's dispatch from NY-23 last night describes the evolving message of the Hoffman camp:
Hours before the polls closed, Hoffman backers were echoing the pundits’ spin–this race would be a referendum on President Obama, and a victory for Hoffman would put the brakes on health care reform by making Democrats worry about challenges to their re-elections in 2010. As a Hoffman victory became more and more remote, the rhetoric changed. The message became the message of two weeks ago. This election wasn’t about showing Republicans that conservatives could win. It was about showing Republicans that they couldn’t win without conservatives.
The irony, of course, is that the race didn't show any such thing. Insofar as it demonstrated anything--and the last week or so was chaotic enough that one could easily maintain it didn't--the message was exactly the opposite of what the Hoffmanites claim. Had Dede Scozzafava stayed in the race, and lost, then perhaps the takeaway would be that Republicans can't win without conservatives. But given that she dropped out, bequeathing the party a head-to-head Hoffman-Owens race, the only remotely intelligible reading of Hoffman's loss is that Republicans can't win without moderates.