Siena (PDF) (4/26-27, likely voters, no trendlines):
Kathy Hochul (D): 31
Jane Corwin (R): 36
Jack Davis (T): 23
Ian Murphy (G): 1
I have to say, I wasn't expecting numbers like this, not at all, for a whole host of reasons. Republicans looked very unified in tapping Assemblywoman Jane Corwin - she was acceptable to the conservatives and even quite a few teabaggers, despite her establishment pedigree, and she also was personally very rich. Meanwhile, Democrats dithered, waiting weeks to pick a candidate after Corwin was already in the race. Furthermore, the one bona fide teabagger who hoped to run, Iraq war vet David Bellavia, screwed up his paperwork and failed to get on the ballot. And on top of that, Ian Murphy, the writer who achieved his 15 minutes with his fake David Koch prank call to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, decided to hop into the race on the newly-reconstituted Green Party line. And oh, yeah, the 26th is the most Republican district in the state. The GOP seemed poised to avoid the mistakes they'd made in the NY-20 and NY-23 specials. It didn't seem promising for Dems.
But the one wild card has proven much wilder than I had anticipated: zillionaire nutball Crazy Jack Davis is having a much bigger impact than his shot-to-hell reputation would seem to warrant. Prior to this year, Davis had run for this seat in three successive cycles from 2004 to 2008, losing twice in the general and once in the primary — all three times as a Democrat. But he cut a strange figure for a Dem, sound like the most unhinged of right-wingers on his favorite issue, immigration. He also has a well-deserved reputation as a lunatic who is impossible to work with, abuses people, and can't hold on to staff. Thus he earned the epithet "Crazy," and he's been Crazy Jack Davis for about as long as I've known of him.
He looked to cement that reputation a few months ago, when he decided he'd get into the mix for this seat yet again, following Rep. Chris Lee's resignation. But this time, Davis wanted to score the Republican and Conservative Party lines — well, I told you he was crazy. He was quickly rebuffed by both, but this is where that unusual "T" line comes in next to his name in the blockquote at top. Thanks to his millions (he's always spent his own money freely), Davis was easily able to get on the ballot as an independent, and cannily chose to name his ballot line the "Tea Party." This caused an entertaining split among teabaggers in western New York, with the "real" teabaggers insisting that Davis was just trying to bogart their good name (yeah, I know, LOL)... but there was nothing they could do about it.
And thanks to his free-spending ways, it seems like Davis is screwing up what should have been a sure thing for Corwin. At the same time, he's also hurting Hochul. Looking at the cross-tabs (PDF), Davis gets 24% of the Republican vote, 20% of the Democratic vote, and 27% of the independent vote. Rare to see a candidate with such cross-spectrum appeal!
It'll be very interesting to see how the major-party candidates react. Surely the campaign committees are doing their own polling, but even if it doesn't match Siena's, these numbers will have to make operatives second-guess themselves a bit. Does Corwin start attacking Davis? Or does she try to pound Hochul? Or both? As I see it, though, the strategy for Hochul is a lot simpler. As Siena notes:
They strongly oppose cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits to help close the deficit (59-38 percent); however, they strongly support increasing personal income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans (62-35 percent)....
Hochul's most recent ad attacked Corwin on Medicare — Corwin said she'd have voted for the Ryan Republican budget — and I said the other day that she should make this her unrelenting theme for the final weeks of the campaign. The poll numbers bear that out. (I'm sure that Hochul won't call for tax increases on the rich, despite that being super-popular in a red district, but that wouldn't be a bad idea, either.)
We'll also have to see if the DCCC and NRCC decide to get involved here. If Hochul can use Medicare the way ex-Rep. Scott Murphy beat Jim Tedisco over the head with the stimulus in the spring of 2009, this could be a real race — coupled, of course, with the Jack Davis factor. All of a sudden, things just got exciting in western New York.