Independent N.Y. Poll Shows Tedisco Ahead by 12 Points

Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:14am

The first independent poll in the special House election to replace now-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) shows that Republicans have a strong chance of taking back Gillibrand’s upstate seat. In a poll by the Siena Research Institute of Siena College that was released Thursday, state Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R) led venture capitalist Scott Murphy (D), 46 percent to 34 percent. The poll of 710 likely special election voters was taken Feb. 18-19 and had a 3.7-point margin of error. Although the survey showed a solid lead for Tedisco, who has spent more than a quarter-century in the Legislature, the news was not all bad for Murphy, a 39-year-old political neophyte. For starters, the 12-point gap was smaller than Tedisco’s 21-point lead in his own poll, which was taken in early February. The Siena poll also showed that Tedisco is mainly benefiting from the general Republican overlay of the district. A sizeable portion of the district’s voters are still undecided, with five weeks before the election on March 31. “Jim Tedisco currently has a 12-point lead over Scott Murphy in a district that has a 15-point Republican enrollment edge,” said Steve Greenberg, a spokesman for the Siena poll. “And one of every five likely voters says that they have not yet made a choice in the special election.” Still, Tedisco carries several distinct advantages. On half a dozen leading issues of the day, voters said they favored Tedisco over Murphy. Tedisco was viewed favorably by 47 percent of those surveyed, and unfavorably by 20 percent. Murphy’s favorable/unfavorable numbers were 29 percent/10 percent. The race to replace Gillibrand, who was appointed to the Senate in late January, has been nasty from the start, but the attacks have just begun to seep onto the airwaves. The National Republican Congressional Committee is airing a radio ad in the Albany and Poughkeepsie media markets attacking Murphy for his business practices, calling him “a Wall Street wheeler-dealer” who is ill-equipped to deal with the country’s and the district’s economic woes. National Republican leaders have made it clear that they will go all-out in their attempts to reclaim the seat that Gillibrand won in a 2006 slugfest. Democratic Congressional leaders are hosting a Capitol Hill fundraiser for Murphy next week, but it isn’t clear what kind of resources the national party is prepared to devote to the race.