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NY-26: Democrat Hochul Takes the Lead in Poll

In a poll from Daily Kos and SEIU, Democrat Kathy Hochul has taken the lead in the NY-26 special election which will be held on May 24. The election replaces Craigslist Chris Lee, who resigned earlier in the year. Republican Jane Corwin was considered a shoo-in for the seat in the historically Republican district, but the combination of a millionaire third-party candidate, Jack Davis, appealing to tea partiers, and the fallout from the now-aborted plan to privatize Medicare from House Republicans has crashed Corwin. Because of the third-party pressure, Corwin can’t abandon the extreme plan to end Medicare, and it’s riding her right to defeat. Hochul leads with 35% of the vote in the poll, compared to 31% for Corwin and 24% for Jack Davis.

The biggest question, of course, is whether a third-party rich guy vanity candidate like Davis can hold on to his share of the vote once people actually go to the polls. It seems like more often than not, characters like Davis see their support slide by election day—but that’s just two weeks away, so perhaps he can hang on, given the short timeframe. Davis’s favorables are less bad than I had expected, an even 43-43. Corwin, meanwhile, is slightly underwater at 39-42, while Hochul is the only one in positive territory at 46-40. If disaffected independents and grumpy teabaggers continue to decide they like Davis more than Corwin, Hochul really could snatch this one away from the GOP.

Republicans are certainly acting like they need to intervene to avoid this embarrassment. Corwin has been running ads for a week hammering Davis, not Hochul, as a tool for Democratic interests. And the electric charisma of John Boehner is being put to the test today, as he visits the district.

Hochul’s candidacy has been simple: highlight the Medicare privatization vote at every opportunity, and present herself as completely opposed to it. This is what’s left of the fault lines in American politics. But it’s working out pretty well for the Democrat here, if the numbers are correct.

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David Dayen

David Dayen