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.