Saratoga County

Siena poll: Gibson pulls ahead of Murphy

Chris Gibson is now 9 percentage points ahead of U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy among likely voters, accordi

Chris Gibson is now 9 percentage points ahead of U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy among likely voters, according to a new Siena Research Institute poll.

Pollsters say Gibson has made major gains in a little more than five weeks. In mid-September, the last time an independent poll was taken, the Democratic incumbent enjoyed a 17-point lead and 65 percent of those polled had no opinion of Gibson.

But Gibson, a Republican former Army colonel from Kinderhook, evidently has spread his message since then.

If the election were held today, 51 percent of those polled said they would pull the lever for Gibson, while 42 percent would pick Murphy; 1 percent wouldn’t vote and 6 percent weren’t sure.

Democrats were more likely to favor Murphy, while Republicans and independents leaned toward Gibson in the poll. The challenger picked up more poll votes across genders, geographic lines and age ranges.

Sixty percent of those surveyed said they were “absolutely certain” of their decision and would not change their minds before Election Day Tuesday.

The poll of 676 likely voters was conducted from Saturday through Monday. Its reported margin of error was 3.8 percent.

The sprawling, largely rural 20th Congressional District was long in Republican hands until Kirsten Gillibrand ousted John Sweeney in 2006. Murphy, then a political newcomer, defeated GOP veteran James Tedisco by a razor-thin margin in a special election in 2009 to keep the seat in Democratic hands after Gillibrand was appointed to the U.S. Senate.

The GOP still has a significant edge in voter enrollment: 41 percent of voters in the district are enrolled in the Republican Party, vs. 27 percent in the Democratic Party and 8 percent in various other parties. The other 24 percent are enrolled in no party.

Gibson’s campaign was pleased Tuesday with the poll results.

“Chris is staying focused on the issues,” Daniel Odescalchi, Gibson campaign spokesman, said in a statement. “Our campaign is about reducing the out-of-control government spending, repealing and replacing the government takeover of health care and most importantly, creating an environment of certainty for the private sector to invest and grow jobs.”

But Odescalchi predicted that Murphy would “increase his negative, nasty and distorted attacks.” Ironically, 36 percent of those surveyed said Gibson’s campaign was more negative, while 31 percent thought Murphy’s was more negative and 13 percent said both were equally negative. Several ads criticizing Murphy were funded by 60 Plus, an organization that bills itself as the conservative version of AARP.

Murphy has paid for his ads out of his own campaign funds, rather than national Democratic dollars.

But independently of the two campaigns, both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have paid for attack ads.

Murphy’s camp discounted the Siena figures, saying an internal poll conducted late last week by the Global Strategy Group showed their candidate leading by 3 percentage points.

“I trust our numbers,” said Murphy spokesman Josh Schwerin. “We’ve always known it’s going to be a close race.”

In a statement, Schwerin also referred to “seven weeks of attacks” by outside groups angling for Gibson.

“This race remains about one thing: who has the experience to help create jobs and help middle-class families during tough economic times,” he said. Schwerin said 1,000 volunteers are working to get out the vote among likely Murphy voters.

On Monday, Murphy will get some last-minute help from former President Bill Clinton, who is coming to a not-yet-determined location in the Saratoga Springs area.

In the Siena poll released Tuesday, 46 percent of those polled said they held a favorable view of Gibson, while 30 percent said they viewed him unfavorably and 24 percent didn’t know.

Voters were more certain, and more evenly split, on Murphy, with an even 45 percent of those polled viewing him favorably and unfavorably. The remaining 10 percent weren’t sure.

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