If you want to know who is the candidate to beat in a three-way race, look at who is taking the incoming fire. By this measure, Doug Hoffman of the Conservative Party appears to be the candidate that Democrats are most worried about as he has gone from possible spoiler to contender. My colleague, ABC News’ Teddy Davis, has more: When a three-way congressional race got underway in upstate New York, Democrats relished the thought that a third party was going to spoil the Republican Party’s chances on Nov. 3rd. But now that Hoffman has emerged as the GOP’s best bet for holding the Republican seat, the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, used a Thursday debate to tie Hoffman to the Club for Growth, an anti-tax group which has backed Hoffman, and ignored the Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava. “It’s very difficult for me to understand Mr. Hoffman’s position on this issue when he has taken substantial amounts of money from the Club for Growth which stands, in many ways, for the privatization of Social Security. He has said that he wants to go back to the failed Bush economic policies. Those are all issues that are going to drive us backward, not forward,” said Owens. Owens painted Hoffman as the captive of Far Right interests during a debate which took place at the studios of WSYR-TV, an ABC News affiliate, in Syracuse, N.Y. Hoffman responded to the effort to tie him to former President Bush by arguing that Owens would raise people’s taxes. “The failed Bush taxes? Well, is what we want to do is increase taxes then, Mr. Owens?” said Hoffman. “Is that going to help business? Is that going to help create jobs?” Owens says that he favors extending the portion of the Bush tax cuts which benefit the middle class while opposing the portion of the Bush tax cuts which benefit the wealthy. Hoffman has catapulted into contention in New York by portraying the race as a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. Scozzafava, a Republican who supports abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and making union organizing easier, has turned off some conservative Republicans with her more liberal views. Hoffman’s across-the-board conservatism has attracted the support of several Republicans who are eyeing a possible presidential run in 2012 including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. “I’m in this race because it’s principle over party. I’m in this race because I’m giving the voters of the 23rd district an option between two liberal candidates and a conservative Ronald Reagan Republican – common-sense conservative. And basically, if I wasn’t in this race, the voters would not have much of a choice,” said Hoffman. “Mrs. Scozzafava talks a lot about the fact that she voted against the budget this year, but how about the nine or 10 years that she approved the higher spending?” he added, referring to her record in the State Assembly. Scozzafava responded to the attacks by arguing that she was the only candidate in the race who would truly represent the district rather than outside interests. She also suggests that Hoffman lacked the conservative value of honesty. “You know, when people talk about values, and conservative values, there is one value that has been sorely lacking in the campaign and that’s called honesty and truth and men that, perhaps, keep their word. I think those are very important values that any sort of representative that is going to Washington should live by,” said Scozzafava. The debate, which was pre-taped, is set to be broadcast at 7:00 pm ET. It was the first such encounter in the race.