Going into the final forty-eight hours of the NY-26 special election, Siena has released a poll showing that Democrat Kathy Hochul now leads Republican Jane Corwin by four points.
That’s just outside the margin of error, so this remains a very tight race. But Hochul is also favored by a number of below-the-fold numbers.
She leads among independents. Her favorability ratings are much higher than Corwin’s. And Hochul also fares much better among Republicans (12% support) than Corwin preforms among Democrats (8%).
Hochul’s voters are also more locked in (73% are sure they’re going to vote for her) when compared with Corwin’s (66%)
During my trip to NY-26 to report on the race — a big chunk of territory stretching from the suburbs of Rochester to the suburbs of Buffalo — I found a lot of discontent with the GOP’s approach.
Republican leaders in particular were eager to talk — mostly on background — about the fact that Corwin’s campaign was fiercely negative, slow to respond to attacks, and also clumsy on the Medicare reform issue.
The general consensus was that the candidate in this heavily-conservative district should have campaigned more confidently, more positively, talking about jobs and jobs and more jobs.
But I think Jane Corwin’s situation was a bit more complicated than that. First, she faced a third-party challenge from Jack Davis, a well-funded, well-known political gadfly who is talking passionately about free trade and outsourcing in a part of the country hit hard by factory closings and the shift of manufacturing to China.
According to Siena, voters who list jobs as their number one issue still favor Davis by overwhelming margins. He claims 44% of that group compared with 17% apiece for the Republican and Democrat.
So it may be that the GOP was effectively outflanked from the start on one of their key issues.
Corwin also ran her campaign at a time when national Republican leaders were floating trial balloons on a controversial overhaul of Medicare.
Voters now list Medicare as their #1 concern in this race, and only 9% of the folks who hold that view are favoring the Republican.
Ouch. That’s a hard narrative for Corwin to overcome.
Corwin faced one other big hurdle in this race: New York is a heavily Democratic state and right now the state’s Democrats are enjoying something of a renaissance.
They are buoyed by the popularity of Governor Andrew Cuomo — who endorsed Hochul — as well as the high favorability ratings of Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
This also remains a big union state, which means that politicians like Hochul can mobilize a big Get Out The Vote Effort if a race looks close, which this one does.
None of this means it’s a done deal. Special elections are notoriously hard to read. Likely voter models are all over the place.
But after the big GOP debacles of recent years in special elections in NY-20 and NY-23, Republicans themselves are increasingly pessimistic about this race.
This from Politico:
The [Republican] party has launched an effort to lower expectations. On Friday afternoon, American Crossroads sent out an e-mail to reporters reminding them of the spoiler role Davis played in the race.
“Let’s not be silly and ascribe deep ideological meaning to an atypical three-way House race in upstate New York,” wrote spokesman Jonathan Collegio.
But I’m not sure that narrative will work either. The fact that voters in NY-26 now rate Medicare above jobs in this race — and the fact that Republicans have zero traction even on the jobs issue — will resonate as we head into 2012.