Poll: Buerkle-Maffei Still Tied in N.Y. Race
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., and Democratic challenger Dan Maffei remain tied below 45 percent in a second consecutive independent poll released Saturday afternoon, a strong indicator of why the National Republican Congressional Committee never gave up on the freshman congresswoman, even though the district is highly favorable for Democrats.
A new survey from Siena College shows Buerkle and Maffei, the former congressman she defeated in 2010, tied at 44 percent. Green Party candidate Ursula Rozum draws eight percent of the vote, with the remainder undecided. In September, Siena's poll of New York's 24th District found Buerkle and Maffei even at 43 percent.
Siena conducted the poll from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, surveying 670 likely voters. The margin of error is 3.8 percentage points.
Both Buerkle and Maffei's images have taken sharp hits, thanks to an onslaught of negative TV advertising, since the September survey. Majorities view both candidates unfavorably. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable view of Buerkle, up from 44 percent; and 50 percent said they viewed Maffei unfavorably, up from 37 percent in September. Buerkle's favorable rating remained virtually steady at 45 percent (up from 44), while Maffei's declined slightly, from 49 percent to 46 percent.
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.