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Hoffman plays wildcard in neck-and-neck NY-23

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The race between Democratic Congressman Bill Owens and Republican Matt Doheny has tightened to a near dead heat. And conservative Doug Hoffman is still playing a big role in who'll represent the 23rd Congressional district next year.

Today's Siena Research Institute poll finds Owens narrowly leading Doheny 40 to 37%, with Hoffman bringing in 15% of the vote, even though he suspended his campaign weeks ago. David Sommerstein reports.

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In last year’s nationally watched special election, Doug Hoffman became one of the Tea Party’s big stars.  But this time around, his campaign flagged.  He dropped out October 5th and threw his support behind Republican Matt Doheny.

Yet Thursday’s Siena Research Institute poll shows 15% of likely voters still support Hoffman.  Pollster Steven Greenberg says that’s the same number as a poll taken shortly after Hoffman pulled out.

It wasn’t particularly surprising cause it had just happened.  But now, a few weeks later, just days before voters go before the polls, the fact that 15% of voters say they’re still with Hoffman, that surprised us.

When the voters were told in the survey that Hoffman had suspended his campaign, just 4% still went for Hoffman.  Most migrated to the Republican and turning the result to a 42 to 42 tie between Owens and Doheny. 

Greenberg says the 4 to 15% of the votes Hoffman wins on Election Day could decide the winner.

Those are votes that would come more from Doheny than from Owens, so that’s not good…  Every vote for Doug Hoffman is not good for Matt Doheny.

There’s good news for Doheny in the poll, too.  He’s flipped a 14 point deficit among the 23rd district’s many independent voters into a 6 point lead.

And the number of independents who view Bill Owens unfavorably soared from 32% to 46%, says Greenberg.

Whether it’s what they’ve been hearing on the radio and TV commercials, what they’ve gotten in their mailboxes, independents voters have soured over the last couple of weeks on Bill Owens.

Owens and Doheny exchanged now familiar attacks in their final debate Wednesday night in Plattsburgh.  Doheny repeatedly tied Owens to House speaker Nancy Pelosi.  He blamed both for inhibiting job creation. 

It’s the health care.  It’s the regulations.  It’s the totality of that that a sane business person says, you know what, we don’t know what’s going to happen.  We’re staying home on the sidelines.

Owens referenced Doheny’s jobs on Wall Street to link him to 2008’s credit meltdown.

We got here because of a financial crisis created on Wall Street.  He spent most of his career there creating wealth for executives, not jobs on Main Street and certainly not jobs in the 23rd district.

Owens and Doheny differ sharply on health care.  Owens said parts of the new health care law that create paperwork for small businesses should be repealed.  But he ultimately defended his vote in favor of health care reform.

If we took no steps, we would see a rapidly increasing cost for health care, with no opportunity – none – to contain those costs.

Doheny slammed the legislation, saying private doctors and patients should control such a big sector of the economy, not government.

Do we need to make sure that costs get under control?  Do we need to make sure that insurance and health care is more affordable in this district?  Absolutely.  Three things that are never heard from either Nancy Pelosi or Bill Owens.  Tort reform.  Insurance portability. And waste and fraud.

Both camps are pushing hard to get out the vote.  They’re spending millions on increasingly vicious mailers and TV ads. 

And they’re bringing out star power to motivate their bases.  Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani stumped for Doheny Wednesday in Watertown.  Bill Owens has enlisted former President Bill Clinton, who’ll appear Monday morning in Watertown.

For North Country Public Radio, I’m David Sommerstein.

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