Siena Research Institute’s survey will challenge the GOP candidate as nothing yet has in his multi-year bid to unseat Democratic congressman Bill Owens.
The narrative up to this point was pretty simple:
In the 2010 race, Doheny’s candidacy was derailed by Conservative Doug Hoffman and he still came within a hair’s breadth of toppling Owens. In a Republican-leaning region like the North Country, surely Doheny would prevail if given a one-on-one shot.
But the numbers out today tell a very different story. Doheny isn’t just trailing by 13 points in the overall “horse race” numbers. He’s also getting battered on nearly all the issues, and his support among Republican voters is astonishingly anemic.
A third of GOP voters in the North Country told Siena they’re pretty comfortable with Owens being re-elected. Only 60% say they’re supporting Doheny. The candidate’s favorability with rank and file Republicans is just 52%.
(Owens, meanwhile, has a favorability among Republicans that’s remarkably high, at 32%.)
Doheny spokesman Jude Seymour is arguing that the numbers are skewed by the fact that the poll was conducted, in part, while the Democratic National Convention was underway.
Seymour also notes that Republican Chris Gibson was trailing Democrat Scott Murphy in the old NY 20th district race at this point in 2010 by an even wider margin, yet Gibson surged to a decisive win.
But there’s a difference here: Doheny, unlike Gibson, isn’t a fresh face on the political scene. In September 2010, Gibson — a former Army officer — was just introducing himself to voters.
Doheny, by contrast, been a fixture in the North Country for a very long time now, working to garner support from Republican and Conservative committees across the region, campaigning aggressively in 2010.
And the simple fact is that, so far, even at this late date, his own party’s voters aren’t sold.
Part of the problem may be Doheny’s bitter contest with Hoffman in 2010. That fierce primary battle may have permanently alienated some tea party folks.
But there are also signs that some moderate Republicans haven’t caught the Doheny bug, symbolized by the cross-party endorsement of Owens by veteran North Country Republican assemblywoman Teresa Sayward.
Doheny also appears to have a real problem with women voters. Bill Owens holds a respectable 51-19% rating among women, with women viewing him more positively than negatively by a two-to-one margin.
Doheny, meanwhile, is viewed positively by just 33% of women, compared with 29% who view him unfavorably.
All of these factors give Doheny very little room to maneuver. And the bald truth is that he’s a different, less nimble candidate than Chris Gibson, who proved to be a natural on the stump, with a compelling back story.
There’s also the fact that Gibson won during the 2010 surge year for Republicans. Siena’s survey shows no similar groundswell for Republican or conservative issues in the North Country. On the contrary. Barack Obama is out-polling Mitt Romney.
Still, the Republican camp is correct that this is far from over. We’ll see in the coming days whether Doheny can find a message, and a trajectory for his campaign, that will begin to nibble away at Owens’ many advantages.
My sense is that Doheny will need something new, something big to shake up this race. The clock is ticking.