As rumors continue to crop up about disgraced former Rep. Vito Fossella’s (R) possible interest in a political comeback, an internal poll shows his successor, Rep. Michael McMahon (D), on solid footing in New York’s 13th district.
The poll of 400 likely general election voters conducted for McMahon by Global Strategy Group showed the freshman with solid favorability ratings and comfortable leads of more than 30 points over the two Republicans who are already in the race. Its margin of error was 4.9 points.
The poll found McMahon leading businessman and former FBI agent Michael Grimm 56 percent to 23 percent with 21 percent undecided. He held a similar lead over Michael Allegretti, a former aide to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), besting him 56 percent to 24 percent with 20 percent undecided.
Among all voters, McMahon had a 54 percent favorable/17 percent unfavorable rating. That included a 55 percent to 18 percent favorable/unfavorable rating among Democrats and a slightly higher 57 percent to 15 percent favorable/unfavorable rating among Republicans.
Look at that standing among Republicans in light of the district’s natural GOP tilt: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) beat Barack Obama by 2 points there in the 2008 presidential race.
One caveat: The sampling was done April 7-11, so the poll is a month old.
And that was before the recent buzz in New York GOP circles that Fossella may be considering a comeback. The former Congressman did not respond to messages left at his New York office.
In a recent interview, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said he doesn’t think Fossella has made up his mind on a possible race for his old seat.
“I don’t know how serious he’s considering it, but until he decides, I’m not going to make an endorsement,” King said. “But if he decides to run, I’ll support him.”
Republican insiders point out that Fossella remains well-known in the district and that even during the height of the drunken-driving and adultery scandal that ended his Congressional career two years ago he still showed decent favorability ratings at home.
Another poll conducted for McMahon last fall showed that a year removed from the scandal, 44 percent of district voters still had a favorable view of Fossella while 40 percent had an unfavorable view. In that poll, McMahon led Fossella by 17 points in a hypothetical matchup. The latest McMahon poll did not test Fossella.
For now, national GOP officials don’t appear to be holding their breath for Fossella — and it isn’t clear whether a Fossella candidacy would be beneficial to the party. Grimm and Allegretti have both been added to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program for promising nonincumbents.
And according to New York news channel YNN, Fossella is being investigated by the Federal Election Commission for failing to file finance reports.
Although McMahon can’t be hit from the right on the health care issue because he voted against the final bills, the GOP will have other lines of attack. For instance, NRCC spokesman Tory Mazzola characterizes McMahon as a Pelosi loyalist who “supported an agenda that failed to put people back to work.”
The filing deadline isn’t until July, so there’s time for more challengers to emerge on either side of the political spectrum. Immediately after McMahon voted against the final health care reform bill, some labor unions and liberal groups threatened to run a candidate against him.
If he did get a challenge from the left, McMahon probably would have more to fear from a general election challenge out of the labor-backed Working Families Party than he would from an intraparty primary challenge, because it would siphon away votes in a potentially close contest.
This week, McMahon appears to be making a push to smooth over relations with labor groups and Working Families Party leaders.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) is sitting down with McMahon, leaders of the Working Families Party and labor representatives in New York this month. This week, McMahon and fellow New York Rep. Yvette Clarke (D), a labor champion, are sitting down with leaders of the Service Employees International Union.
A top New York Democratic aide on Capitol Hill said this week that McMahon will likely benefit from the attention that another highly targeted New York Democrat, Rep. Michael Arcuri, is going to get this fall. Arcuri’s district is less Republican-leaning and he, too, voted against the final health care bill, angering liberals.
“The fact that [the Working Families Party] doesn’t have just one person to focus on is huge,” the aide said. “Had [McMahon] been the only Democrat in basically the Northeast to vote no,’ that would have been a pretty sizable issue to deal with.”
Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.