Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New York 20: Toss-Up

By Stuart Rothenberg and Nathan L. Gonzales

It’s a sprint to March 31 in the special election race to replace appointed-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) in New York’s 20th District, and there is mounting evidence that this race is a pure toss-up.

The Republican voter registration advantage appears to be a lagging indicator of the direction of a district that voted overwhelming for Gillibrand and gave Barack Obama a more narrow victory last fall.

There appears to be a sizable population of Republicans that aren’t yet willing to vote for state Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco (R). Democrats have Tedisco on the defensive for not taking a stance on the stimulus bill in a district where President Obama and Gillibrand are very popular.

Meanwhile, Republicans have been aggressive against former venture capitalist Scott Murphy (D), but his lack of a voting record or public office appears to make him a difficult target.

Given the recent release of a late February Democratic survey that showed Tedisco leading by seven points but at only 44%, and Democratic comments at the time of the poll expressing uncertainty about the party’s willingness to fight for the seat, it now appears that Democrats were low-balling their prospects of holding the seat.

Democrats have downplayed the race by playing up the GOP registration numbers to avoid fallout from losing a Democratic House seat in the first special election of the Obama Administration.

But now, both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are advertising in the district with significant television buys and each party has a legitimate shot to win.

Republicans and Tedisco should no longer be considered favorites to win the seat. The race is now a pure toss-up. [Click here for our latest House ratings.]