Last-minute NY 23rd poll: Conservative Doug Hoffman surges, but ...
A last-minute poll of New York's suddenly significant 23rd District interim House race shows that with less than 12 hours before voting begins, the Conservative/Republican candidate Doug Hoffman has built a 5-point lead over Democrat Bill Owens.
But the newfound allies of Hoffman and the Republican National Committee had best hold off on the champagne purchases. The undecided voters there have doubled to nearly 1 in 5, making the final hours volatile.
With so much symbolism at stake in the minor race, Vice President Joe Biden parachuted into the district today, as The Ticket reported here earlier, to fire off several thousand words in support of Owens.
And the RNC made a quick ad buy to push the Conservative Party's Hoffman, who inherited the GOP's support when Dede Scozzafava, the official GOP candidate, saw the handwriting on the wall and quit Saturday under accusations that her pro-union, pro-abortion-rights views were not really Republican. Sunday she seemed to prove it by endorsing the Democrat.
New York's 23rd Congressional District was the scene of significant military....
...combat during both the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Historically, the 15,000-square mile chunk of upstate New York hard by Canada has also voted Republican -- going for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, switching to Obama in 2008, but consistently sending a GOP member to Congress since the late 1800s.
Today the largely rural area is the scene of a fascinating political struggle among Republicans and Republicans and Democrats.
The interim House election race -- caused by President Obama's clever appointment of the Republican incumbent to the positively essential job of secretary of the Army -- will settle one House seat out of 435. And even if the Republican/Conservative candidate holds it, absolutely nothing changes with the Democrats' lopsided control of the House of Representatives, 257-178.
The symbolism comes in two forms: It's seen as a microscopic referendum on the Obama-Biden spending agenda. So are the governor's races in New Jersey, where it's very close, and in Virginia, home state for the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, incumbent Gov. Tim Kaine, where the Republican is pulling way ahead.
Two or three referendum losses for the less-than-10-month-old Obama administration would augur ill for next year's midterm congressional elections, when history already stacks the deck against the party holding the White House.
Locally, the New York race is a symbolic struggle for the heart of the Republican Party. Some think the party's problem (i.e. recent election losses at virtually every level) is that it has not held true to its small-government, limited-spending principles under Bush or under recent congressional leadership.
This is why Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson and Dick Armey broke with the GOP to endorse Hoffman in recent weeks.
It now sounds as if the national party, which originally backed Scozzafava as the choice of state party county chairpeople, has gotten the new grass-roots message. This afternoon, House Minority Leader John Boehner said he regrets having backed Scozzafava.
Now listen to the RNC's new ad by clicking here. The "Pelosi/Paterson train wreck," "real conservative change," "proven conservative ideas like lower taxes."
But did you notice anything missing from that ad? Listen again.
It doesn't mention the candidate's name. Hmmm.
Well, the new last-minute polling by the Siena Research Institute shows Hoffman gaining momentum and pulling away to a 41-36 lead over Owens among likely voters. However, the pollsters said many of Scozzafava's supporters seem to have moved into the "undecided" column, which has increased to 18% -- keeping the outcome hard to predict.
However, the numbers also show that Hoffman's support among Republicans has soared from 27% in mid-October, before the Palin/Thompson/Armey endorsements, to 50% last Saturday and 63% today.
Meanwhile, Owens' support among Republicans moved from 19% to 13% to 14%, and his support among Democrats went from 55% to 66% to 62%.
Hence, the arrival of Biden to shore up his own base.
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photos: Associated Press (from left, Hoffman, Owens, Scozzafava)