Polls, Ads Signal That Congressional Campaign Is Finally Underway

The three-way race to replace John McHugh in Congress kicked into overdrive in the last 48 hours, with a new poll showing a close race and TV commercials beginning to flood the airwaves.

A poll commissioned by the conservative Club For Growth finds that Republican Dede Scozzafava holds a tiny lead over Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Doug Hoffman, with Scozzafava at 20% and Owens and Hoffman at 17%. All three trail “undecided”, which comes in at 45%.

The poll is small — just 300 registered voters who say they’re likely to vote — with a high margin of error, 5.66%. The polling firm is also not a nationally-known firm.

Conservatives don’t like Scozzafava much. She’s taken socially liberal positions on abortion and gay marriage. That’s why the state Conservative Party is running Hoffman, to show its displeasure with its normal Republican allies.

The district has been Republican territory for more than a century, but the gap between registered Republicans and Democrats has been narrowing in recent years. President Obama won the district in the 2008 elections, for example, and conservative Democrat Darrel Aubertine won a state senate special election in the heart of that Congressional district.

Also from the Club For Growth poll:

“The poll also asked “Would you prefer your next member of Congress be a liberal Democrat, a liberal Republican, or a Conservative party candidate who would align himself with Republicans in Congress?” The Conservative Party candidate was selected by 36% of respondents, compared to 31% for the Democrat and 18% for the Republican.”

Josh Kraushaar of Politico writes:

“(A)n endorsement by the Club for Growth would greatly boost Hoffman’s fundraising efforts, and would lend insider credibility to his campaign. Scozzafava has faced difficulty fundraising for the race, according to several Republican operatives, and is the only candidate not to go up with a campaign advertisement yet.

If Hoffman is able to outraise Scozzafava – and win the support of the national conservative donor base — that could seriously complicate the Republican’s path to victory.”

Hoffman released his own poll earlier this month, showing Scozzafava at 30%, Owens at 20% and himself at 19%.

The air war began in earnest this week, hours after McHugh was sworn in as Secretary of the Army and his seat became vacant.

Here’s Doug Hoffman on Scozzafava:

Here’s the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, double-teaming on Scozzafava:

Bill Owens introduces himself:

And the National Republican Campaign Committee introduces you to Owens in its own way:

And the nastier radio version of that ad: