New Poll Shows a Dead Heat in N.Y.'s 23rd District Between Democrat, Conservative
By Karl Vick
A new poll out Saturday morning shows a dead heat between two of the three candidates in Tuesday's special congressional election in Upstate New York.
The Siena College survey has Democrat Bill Owens with 36 percent of likely voters in New York's 23rd Congressional District and Conservative Party upstart Doug Hoffman with 35 percent. Republican Dede Scozzafava had 20 percent, the latest sign that the pounding she has received from negative ads financed by the Club for Growth has badly hollowed out her support in this historically Republican district.
The percentage of voters with an unfavorable impression of Scozzafava, a member of the state assembly, spiked from 29 percent two weeks ago to 51 percent this week.
There were indications that Scozzafava suffered from TV spots that appeared to have been placed by her supporters but were financed by a conservative group slyly calling attention to her support for gay marriage and unions. Of those who reported seeing Scozzafava commercials, 45 percent said they were less likely to support her and only 9 percent more likely to support her. No other candidate saw a lopsided effect.
The survey of 704 likely voters was taken Tuesday through Thursday; it has a 3.7 percent margin of error.
"Hoffman is now winning among Republican voters," said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg, who added that the Conservative nominee also maintained his slight lead among independents. "He is getting the support of 50 percent of Republicans. Scozzafava is down to 25 percent."
The poll was completed before Thursday night's televised candidate debate, the only one attended by the novice Hoffman, who appeared emphatic but occasionally ill at ease. In Siena polls released since the start of October, support for the Lake Placid accountant has risen from 16 percent to 23 percent to the current 35 percent.
"Clearly Hoffman has a lot of momentum as we head into this final weekend," Greenberg said. "But there are a lot of other factors. What does the turnout look like? What will the weather be? Hoffman doesn't have a major-party infrastructure behind him. He has no union support."
One clue may nest in the last question in the survey: "Regardless of which candidate you plan to vote for, who do you think will win the special election?"
"Owens" was the answer 37 percent of the time, "Hoffman" 22 percent and "Scozzafava" 20 percent. Another 21 percent offered no opinion.
The special election was called to fill the seat vacated when John McHugh, the moderate Republican first elected in 1992, accepted President Obama's offer to serve as secretary of the Army.
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