A new poll released this morning by Siena College shows the race for New York’s 23rd congressional district is still very much up for grabs. The poll taken Sunday – of 606 likely voters – showed Conservative Doug Hoffman with 41% of the vote and Democrat Bill Owens with 36%. But don’t take this to mean Hoffman has the advantage going into tomorrow’s election to replace Republican John McHugh, who left his seat to be President Obama’s Secretary of the Army.
While the Siena poll was conducted around the time Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava – who had already dropped out of the race – endorsed her Democratic opponent, most of those polled probably had not yet heard the news. Says Steven Greenberg, Siena’a pollster, “Most voters are not political junkies like I am and didn’t know this.” Instead of being glued to the weeke’s political developments, it’s more likely “They were watching football or enjoying the beautiful fall day.” Greenberg points out that many of Scozzafava’s voters – rather than shifting their support to Hoffman or Owens – appeared to jump into the “undecided” category. Between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2, according to Siena, the number of undecided voters doubled from 9 to 18 %. Word of Scozzafava’s support for Owens, in other words, may have since given Owens a boost not reflected in the Siena poll, the last the college will conduct before tomorrow’s election.
All of this means the election now comes down to the ground game and getting out the vote. The upstate New York union machine is fully activated for Owens now. Some union support was previously behind Scozzafava, who is married to a powerful union official, but that transferred to Owens with her endorsement. Hoffman’s conservative grassroots movement, meanwhile, is well funded by outside groups like the Club for Growth and the Susan B. Anthony List. Turnout will no doubt be larger than if the race in the 23rd hadn’t turned into a national spectacle, but is still not likely to break any records. Here is a sample ballot for Jefferson County.
Vice President Joe Biden is in the district’s largest city of Watertown this morning stumping for Owens, while Hoffman will hold a campaign event tonight headlined by country star John Rich.