CANTON - Democratic Rep. William L. Owens has a 13-point lead over his Nov. 6 opponent, Republican Matthew A. Doheny, with two months to go until election day, according to an independent poll released Monday morning.
By any measure, Congressman Owens enters the final two months of this electoral rematch in a very strong position, said Siena College Research Institute pollster Steven Greenberg.
Mr. Owens was favored by 49 percent of respondents, while 36 percent said they would vote for Mr. Doheny. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
That lead was buoyed by a wide margin in Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties. Mr. Owens, who hails from Plattsburgh, in Clinton County, led Mr. Doheny 60 percent to 32 percent there. Mr. Doheny is a native of Alexandria Bay who resides in Watertown.
The Doheny campaign downplayed the results and said that its own internal polling showed a tighter race. In a news release, Mr. Doheny noted that the survey took place during the big party for the Democrats in Charlotte, N.C.
Siena was in the field during the Democratic National Convention, so its laughable to think three nights of wall-to-wall television coverage didnt have a bearing on these numbers, Mr. Doheny said. And despite that coverage being overwhelmingly pro-Democrat at all times, my opponent still cannot manage to crack 50 percent.
Mr. Greenberg said he believed the convention had no effect on the poll results; he said the results over the three days were consistent, and noted that the Republican National Convention had taken place a week earlier.
Publicly, the Owens campaign was circumspect, not celebratory.
Well continue listening to voters and focusing on working across the aisle for common sense job creation solutions, campaign manager James Hannaway said in an email. After all, the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.
A 13 percentage point gap is by no means insurmountable, Mr. Greenberg said. In a 2010 election, now-Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican, overcame a 16-point deficit and won by 9 percentage points over the incumbent, Democrat Scott Murphy. Several areas of that district are now part of the district for which Mr. Owens and Mr. Doheny are battling.
Candidates, over the course of the traditional eight weeks of the campaign, can make up double-digit deficits, Mr. Greenberg said.
The poll results show that Mr. Owens is well positioned for November, but fell short of a death knell for Mr. Doheny.
The good news for Mr. Owens:
n Respondents like him more than they like Mr. Doheny. Fifty-one percent of respondents viewed him favorably, while 22 percent had an unfavorable view. He even had a net favorable ranking among Republicans 37 percent viewing him favorably, with 32 percent holding an unfavorable opinion. That compares with 36 percent of respondents who had a favorable opinion of Mr. Doheny, and 32 percent who had an unfavorable view of him. He had a net unfavorable ranking among independent voters 38 percent unfavorable to 25 percent favorable.
n President Obama is winning in the north country over Republican Mitt Romney, according to this poll. Mr. Dohenys strategy of late has been to tie Mr. Owens to Mr. Obama. But Mr. Obama was the favored choice of 50 percent of respondents, compared with 45 percent for Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. And Mr. Obamas own poll numbers have seen a small but significant bounce since the Democratic National Convention.
n More respondents trusted Mr. Owens than Mr. Doheny to represent their interests on major issues. On jobs, 44 percent of respondents said Mr. Owens would do a better job, while 31 percent said Mr. Doheny would do a better job. The fact that the jobs issue and the horse-race margin were the same is coincidental, but serves as a metaphorical reminder for what most voters say they care about. And Mr. Owens is up big there. He also does better on the No. 2 issue for voters: the deficit. Forty percent said they thought he would do a better job on the deficit, compared with 33 percent for Mr. Doheny.
But it wasnt all bad news for Mr. Doheny. Consider this:
n He is winning by 4 percentage points about the margin of error in the part of the district that was added during the decennial reshuffling of the congressional map. And 12 percent in that new part Fulton, Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties said they werent sure for whom they were going to vote. So theres room for movement in the part of the district where 40 percent of voters live. Theres also very little chance that Green Party candidate Donald L. Hassig will actually get 6 percentage points on Election Day, as he did in the polls, both campaigns privately said.
n About one in five respondents said they werent sure about their pick though Owens supporters were more sure of their choice than Doheny supporters. About half of respondents said they hadnt been contacted by either campaign and hadnt seen an ad from them, so there is still much campaigning to be done.
n Mr. Doheny might be relatively inoculated from poor fundraising as a result of bad poll numbers and the bad headlines that go along with them. He has signaled a willingness to cut a check to his own campaign, though he has yet to do so in this election cycle. He lent his 2010 campaign more than $2 million when the two men first faced off.