Today Daily Kos released a poll we conducted for them which found Democrat Kathy Hochul leading with 35% in the NY-26 special election to 31% for Republican Jane Corwin and 24% for Tea Party candidate Jack Davis.
Obviously Davis' presence in the race is the biggest reason it's so competitive and a lot of what I wrote last April about why a Charles Djou special election win in Hawaii wouldn't be that meaningful applies here as well. Still I think there are several very important things we found on this poll that reinforce some of what we've been seeing in our national polling and show why Democrats should have a very real chance to take the House back next year:
-Congressional Republicans are extremely unpopular. They have a 31% approval rating in this district to 57% disapproving. That makes them a whole lot more unpopular than Barack Obama, who has a 40/53 approval spread. Democrats are more unhappy (82%) with the new House majority than GOP voters (only 51% approval) are pleased with it and independents split against the Republicans by a 23/64 margin as well.
-The dominance the GOP showed with independents last year is over. Hochul is winning the independent vote with 37% to 31% for Davis and 20% for Corwin. A more significant finding though is that 39% of independent voters want their new representative to caucus with the Democrats in Washington to 36% who want the winner to side with the Republicans. That suggests Hochul might be winning even in a two way race with independents and after a year where independents nationally sided with the GOP by a 19 point margin on the national House ballot that's very meaningful.
-There no longer appears to be an enthusiasm gap. John McCain won this district by 6 points in 2008 and we found that likely voters for the special election reported voting for McCain by a 6 point margin as well. That's a big contrast to last year when we frequently found those turning out to vote were 5-10 points more Republican leaning than the 2008 electorate. In 2010 GOP voters were fired up while Democrats remained relatively complacent. The Boehner Speakership has quickly shaken the cobwebs out of Democratic voters.
Because of the Davis angle people should be cautious about reading too much into it if Hochul really does end up winning this race. But it would also be a mistake to declare it meaningless.