New York has always had a large potential for massive Republican gains. Only two of New York’s 29 congressional seats are held by Republicans, despite a fair number of districts being carried by McCain in 2008. That’s why Nate Silver is projecting a total of 9 seats in play.
Despite Republican polling which consistently provided a strong showing from candidates in these battleground districts, the races have received little media attention — in large part because of Siena’s polling.
Siena College represents the only nonpartisan polling on New York’s congressional races and a majority of the polling for the gubernatorial and Senate races. NY’s 25th Congressional District provides us an excellent example of how Siena’s polling has impacted the narrative of the race. After Republican pollsters gave Ann Marie Buerkle a one-point lead over incumbent Democrat Dan Maffei, Siena released a conflicting poll showing Maffei leading by 12. Syracuse’s largest paper, the Post-Standard, downplayed the Republican poll in light of the recently commissioned Siena. This poll will be nearly a month old when voters pull the lever in November, but it will be the last look the media has at “nonpartisan” polling.
NY-25 is far from the only district showing a surprisingly strong Democrat incumbency. Here’s a list of Siena’s polling over the last month:
NY-24: Democrat incumbent Mike Arcuri over Republican Richard Hanna, 48-40%
NY-1: Incumbent Tim Bishop 51% to Republican Randy Altschuler 39%
NY-23: 44-39% for Democrat Bill Owens over Matt Doheny.
Despite the polling, groups like the NRCC and American Crossroads are investing heavily in these races, an indication that they like what they are seeing in internal polling, and given the unbelievable shift in NY-20, they may be well positioned. If NY-20 is not just an isolated movement of voters, but indicative of upstate congressional races, the big election surprise on November 2 will be NY.