The Battle for America 2010: Shock Poll Has GOP Candidate Up 9 in NY-20

New York political junkies woke up this morning to a stunning new poll from Siena Research Institute. The poll conducted on NY’s 20th Congressional District shows a massive surge for Republican challenger Chris Gibson, who overcame a 17-point deficit and now leads the race by 9 -- a 26-point swing in only a month.

The dramatic shift in the race did not go unnoticed. Maggie Haberman at Politico wrote that the poll “surprised” even “veteran political watchers in the state.” While Chris Gibson is truly an exceptional candidate and his fantastic performance in recent debates has no doubt boosted his polling, reports are now coming out that the large polling swing is the result of a change in Siena’s likely voter methodology. It sounds benign, but it has some real serious implications for how the media and political watchers perceive New York races. The resulting methodology shift might be hinting at a far weaker performance for Democrat incumbents in New York.

According to Siena pollster Steve Greenberg, each week Siena is able to “tighten” their likely voter population through survey questioning as the elections near. New York has a late primary in September, so the nuts and bolts of voter decision making occur in a short amount of time. In NY-20, likely voters have leaned dramatically for Republicans in the last 30 days. Could the same be true for other upstate districts?

Today’s NY-20 poll not only shows a large swing as a result from methodology, but also points to the possibility that Republican polling might have been on the conservative side. Only a week ago, campaign polling had Gibson leading the race by 2. That sort of surge is not unprecedented, although it certainly raises some questions.