POLL REVEALS HOUSE RACE TIGHTENING

Republican Tedisco's lead cut to 4 points as independents shift to Democrat Murphy

IRENE JAY LIU CAPITOL BUREAU
Section: Main,  Page: A3

Date: Friday, March 13, 2009

With less than three weeks to go, the 20th Congressional District race is turning into a nail-biter.


Democrat Scott Murphy has cut Republican Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco's 12-point lead from two weeks ago to a 4-point lead, according to a Siena Research Institute poll released Thursday.


Tedisco leads Murphy 45 percent to 41 percent, which is within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. Thirteen percent of the electorate remain undecided.


While Murphy continues to enjoy stronger support among Democratic voters than Tedisco has among enrolled Republicans, the biggest shift is among independent voters, who previously gave Tedisco a significant 45-31 percent lead but now favor Murphy by a 43-37 percent margin.


Nearly 90 percent of voters say they won't change their minds.


"We understood all along that this was going to be a tight campaign," said Tedisco. "I look at this as a basketball game. This is the second half. ... We won't need any overtime. We're going to win."


Murphy attributed his surge in the polls to voters learning more about him in recent weeks and responding to his campaign message on economic issues. "People are really starting to understand my experience," Murphy said.


In a Siena poll released Feb. 26, voters said Tedisco would do a better job than Murphy would representing them on six issues. Murphy now leads on two of the issues, including the most important issue for voters in the 20th district: the economy.


Murphy now leads Tedisco on the economy 42 percent to 38 percent -- two weeks ago, Tedisco led 34 percent to 30 percent.


The Murphy campaign has attacked Tedisco repeatedly over his refusal to say how he would have voted on the federal financial stimulus package that passed earlier this month. In the House of Representatives, the stimulus passed without a single vote from a Republican member. Tedisco has said that he would have voted for a federal stimulus package with amendments.


According to the poll, Murphy's campaign ads have been more effective than Tedisco's: By a margin of 28 percent to 20 percent, voters say Murphy's ads make them more likely to vote for him, with half of voters saying the Democrat's ads have no effect on who they plan to support. But only 12 percent of those who have seen Tedisco's commercials are more likely to support him, while 28 percent say the ads make them less likely to support Tedisco, with 58 percent saying they have had no effect.


Tedisco said his campaign will no longer run negative ads, focusing instead on a positive message about his record. "I'm going to go back to the old Jim Tedisco that voters know ... and take control of my own destiny," he said.


In a district with a 70,000 Republican voter enrollment advantage, Murphy appears to be benefitting from the immense popularity of fellow Democrats in the district: President Barack Obama has a 65 percent favorable rating (27 percent have an unfavorable view). Kirsten Gillibrand, who vacated the 20th Congressional District seat when she was named to the Senate in January, enjoys 78 percent favorable rating (15 percent with an unfavorable view).


Murphy said he expects to be campaigning with Gillibrand in the district and that she may appear in TV ads on his behalf. The election is March 31.


The new Siena poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday by telephone calls to 712 likely voters.


Irene Jay Liu can be reached at 454-5081 or by e-mail at iliu@timesunion.com.


BOX:


If the special election were held today, who would you vote for?


JIM TEDISCO


Feb. 26: 46 percent


March 12: 45 percent


SCOTT MURPHY


Feb. 26: 34 percent


March 12: 41 percent


Which candidate would do a better job representing you in the U.S. Congress


on the economy?


JIM TEDISCO


Feb. 26: 34 percent


March 12: 38 percent


SCOTT MURPHY


Feb. 26: 30 percent


March 12: 42 percent


(Source: Siena Research Institute)