Poll: Owens Moves Ahead in McHugh Special Election
Democrat Bill Owens has taken a narrow lead over Republican Dede Scozzafava in the special election in upstate New York’s 23rd district, according to a new Siena College poll released Thursday.Owens, a lawyer and political novice, was ahead 33 percent to 29 percent over Scozzafava, a longtime state assemblywoman, in the poll of likely voters conducted Oct. 11-13. The difference between the two candidates was just outside the 4-point margin of error. Sixteen percent of likely voters were undecided.The result represented a reversal from just two weeks ago, when Scozzafava led Owens 35 percent to 27 percent in a Siena poll released Oct. 1. Perhaps most significantly, Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman earned nearly a quarter of the vote in the newest poll — 23 percent compared to 16 percent in the Oct. 1 survey. Much of his support comes from Independent and Republican voters, who backed him with 31 percent and 27 percent, respectively, according to the latest survey. Hoffman has sought to capitalize on the backlash among local and national conservative groups against Scozzafava’s candidacy. They have strongly objected to the centrist record she has compiled while in the state Assembly: She voted in support of gay marriage, backed the 2008-2009 state budget pushed by Democrats and favors some abortion rights.With Hoffman in the race, Scozzafava’s path to victory lies in wooing enough independents and Democrats to her side to make up for her losses on the right. But she has lost ground in both categories since Oct. 1, going from 26 percent to 17 percent among Democrats. Her loss of support among independents was much less dramatic; it dropped from 26 percent to 24 percent. Owens hassolidified his standing among Democratic voters and now enjoys support among a majority — 55 percent — of his party’s likely voters.The electorate is still in flux, however, with three weeks until the Nov. 3 election. Just over a third, 36 percent, of likely voters say they are absolutely certain about whom they will vote for. “With one in six voters still undecided, who these undecided voters choose to support — if they choose to vote at all — will likely determine the outcome of this race,— Siena pollster Steven Greenberg wrote in a news release analyzing the poll results. “And given how tight the race is, this election may very well be won by a candidate with less than 40 percent of all the votes cast.—All of the money pouring into the race is beginning to have an impact, the poll showed.Attack ads running against Scozzafava from either side of the political spectrum, funded by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the anti-tax Club for Growth, are likely factors for her rising unfavorable rating. In the latest poll, 32 percent held an unfavorable view of Scozzafava, up from 20 percent two weeks ago; her favorability rating, meanwhile, has jumped a modest 4 points, to 37 percent. Owens’ and Hoffman’s negatives have also increased, but by less: 47 percent still have no opinion of Owens and 63 percent have no opinion of Hoffman.Despite taking fire from both sides, it is Scozzafava who is perceived as running the most negative campaign, perhaps because she is relying on the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has gone negative on Owens early and often, to fund most of the GOP advertising. A plurality of voters also said the ads aired on Scozzafava’s behalf have made them less likely to vote for her. Slightly more voters say Owens’ ads make them more likely to vote for him.Scozzafava’s campaign has aired one introductory ad spot, and Republican operatives have privately worried about her fundraising. Seeking to give Scozzafava a boost, GOP House leaders including Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Conference Vice-Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Conference Secretary John Carter (Texas) and NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) hosted a fundraising reception for her campaign in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday evening.Owens is also in town for a fundraiser with House Democratic leaders Thursday.The NRCC has spent $444,000 in independent expenditures on the campaign, but that has been nearly doubled by the combined spending of the DCCC, which has pumped $387,000 into ads and other independent campaign outlays, and the Club for Growth, which has spent $303,000 as a surrogate for Hoffman.The 23rd district seat became open last month when Rep. John McHugh (R) resigned to become secretary of the Army. The district has traditionally leaned toward Republicans, but it backed President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race, and New York as a whole has trended more and more Democratic in recent elections.