The Siena Research Institute is out with the first public poll on 2011's first congressional election, the race to replace shirtless ex-Rep. Chris Lee in upstate New York. The results after polling 484 likely voters:
Jane Corwin (R/C) - 36%
Kathy Hochul (D/WF) - 31%
Jack Davis (Tea Party) - 23%
Ian Murphy (Green) - 1%
Wait -- who is Jack Davis, the Tea Party candidate? Glad you asked. Davis is a wealthy businessman with unpredictable views who previously ran for the seat in 2004, 2006 and 2008, as a Democrat. In 2006, he almost won, because the late-breaking Mark Foley scandal weakened Tom Reynolds, his Republican opponent. In 2008, he only succeeded in scorching the earth in the Democratic Party primary and letting a weak candidate. win the nomination. It should be noted that in none of these runs was Davis a standard liberal politician. He actually sued over the "millionaire's amendment" in McCain-Feingold, and won, helping to neuter the law.
If this had been Davis's first independent bid, he might be seen as a pure Tea Party candidate. (Like Doug Hoffman in NY-23, he failed to win the GOP's nomination, then bolted.) As it is, he has residual support from Democrats. Twenty percent of them say they back Davis, which cuts Hochul's support from her party's voters to 62 percent. That's a problem for her, but Davis's wild card run might be the only thing that can win this seat for Democrats -- Barack Obama has a 57 percent negative approval rating in the district.
So Davis makes the math trickier for Republicans, who may have to waste some money attacking him. The rest of the polling hints at some good arguments for Democrats.
Voters identified the federal budget deficit and jobs as the two most important issues they want their new Representative working on in Washington. Voters strongly support (58-36 percent) repealing the recently-enacted federal health care legislation. They strongly oppose cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits to help close the deficit (59-38 percent), however, they strongly support increasing personal income tax rates for the wealthiest Americans (62-35 percent), and they are divided (48-47 percent) on increasing corporate taxes.
Hochul's first ad was an attack on the Ryan budget. (Also, trivia: Ian Murphy, the fourth candidate, is the Buffalo Beast writer who pranked Scott Walker.)