Updated: 5:49 p.m.
A new poll from Daily Kos and Research 2000 confirms what election watchers have been saying for the past week — the House special election in upstate New York is coming down to a race between Democrat Bill Owens and third-party candidate Doug Hoffman.
Owens, an attorney, narrowly led Hoffman, an accountant running on the state Conservative Party line, among likely voters 33 percent to 32 percent, within the poll’s 4-point margin of error. Republican Dede Scozzafava lagged behind at 21 percent. Fourteen percent remained undecided in the upstate 23rd district.
Owens held relatively steady compared to the Daily Kos poll released Oct. 23, which had him at 35 percent of the vote. The big swing is in the standing of Hoffman and Scozzafava, who continue their dramatic movement in opposite directions. Scozzafava, a longtime state Assemblywoman who started the race in the lead, was in second last week to Owens with 30 percent of the vote while Hoffman trailed with 23 percent. In just seven days, the two have essentially swapped places, though the movement toward Hoffman has been building for some time.
Over the past month, national conservative groups have mounted an aggressive campaign on his behalf, going after Scozzafava as a liberal masquerading as a Republican because of her support for abortion rights, gay marriage and organized labor, among other stances.
The Republican Party continues to stand behind Scozzafava officially, but the shift in momentum toward Hoffman prompted defections from a number of Republican Members this week. Seven more Republicans endorsed Hoffman on Thursday: Reps. Todd Akin (Mo.), Paul Broun (Ga.), Mary Fallin (Okla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John Fleming (La.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Steve King (Iowa), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) John Shadegg (Ariz.) and Mark Souder (R-Ind.). Franks sent out an e-mail Thursday saying that while he “traditionally never supported third party candidates— he is making an exception in the 23rd district race because Scozzafava is “radically out of the mainstream on issues that constitute the core of the Republican Party’s principles.—
The hammering from the right as well as the left has taken a toll on Scozzafava’s popularity — 46 percent of likely voters now have an unfavorable opinion of her, according to the latest poll, and 22 percent were very unfavorable. Thirty-two percent held a favorable opinion of the Republican nominee and 22 percent had no opinion.
Neither Hoffman nor Owen are particularly well-known — nearly 40 percent of respondents did not have an opinion of either man — but both enjoy net favorable ratings.
Hoffman now leads among both Republican and independent voters. Forty-one percent of GOP respondents said they were backing the Conservative Party nominee, compared to 34 percent for Scozzafava. Scozzafava led 46 percent to 27 percent among those voters in last week’s poll.
Hoffman is up 47 percent to 28 percent for Owens among independents, also a jump from last week when Owens and Hoffman were essentially splitting that vote. And Owens solidified his grasp on Democratic voters, with 64 percent of the vote, dashing the Scozzafava camp’s hopes of peeling away a significant portion of Democrats thanks to her views on social issues.
Abortion-rights groups are hoping to change that in the next few days — NARAL Pro-Choice New York just launched a campaign on Scozzafava’s behalf that includes mail to more than 10,000 households and volunteer phone banking “highlighting Scozzafava’s many pro-choice, pro-active votes in the State Assembly and her distinction as the only 100% pro-choice candidate in the race,— according to a news release from the group.
But the key battle at this point is likely to be over moderate Republicans and independents and whether Owens can woo Scozzafava’s remaining backers in high enough numbers to hold off the Hoffman surge.