The rematch campaign has been nasty and personal, with both sides going hard after the other candidate's congressional record. In particular, Maffei's campaign aired TV ads slamming Buerkle for co-sponsoring a bill "with Congressman Todd Akin that would redefine the term 'rape' to mean only 'forcible rape.'" The ad continued: "For Ann Marie Buerkle, women who are drugged, or even minors who are victims of statutory rape, would not be classified rape victims." Buerkle shot back, saying at a debate that Maffei "hides behind the skirts" of rape victims and that Maffei misrepresented the bill, which eventually had that language removed.
President Obama dipped slightly but maintained strong support from the previous Siena poll in the district. He took 53 percent of voters to Mitt Romney's 42 percent in the new poll, compared to a 55-36 spread in September. Obama won 56 percent of the vote in the 24th District in 2008.
Polling under 45 percent is generally a warning sign for incumbents, but the danger for Buerkle is somewhat mitigated by the fact that virtually everyone in the district has made up their mind about Maffei, who is running for Congress for the fourth consecutive election. Partly because of that, House Republican strategists say Maffei might have the highest unfavorable numbers of any Democratic challenger in the country. Fifty-four percent of voters said they would prefer someone else to Buerkle, but not all of them are flocking to Maffei's banner, and Rozum is likely splitting off liberal votes.
However, third-party candidates typically overperform in polls relative to the actual number of votes they get, and while about four-fifths of Maffei and Buerkle supporters said they were sure to vote for their candidate, just a third of Rozum's supporters did the same. Meanwhile, two-thirds of them said they plan to vote for Obama. Democratic strategists admit Rozum complicates the 24th District for them, but they believe some of those voters will "come home" to the Democratic line by Election Day.
Though it's a small sample size, Rozum's supporters in the poll don't like Maffei. Just a quarter of them view him favorably, though Buerkle is even less liked. The tight rematch between Buerkle and Maffei may come down to which of those feelings is stronger.