A double-digit lead for the incumbent in the 21st Congressional District has evaporated, and the two major candidates are now neck-and-neck.
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, is narrowly leading Republican challenger Matt Doheny 44 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, according to a Siena Research Institute poll released Thursday.
Green Party candidate Donald Hassig has 4 percent of the vote, and 9 percent of voters are undecided.
A full breakdown of the poll can be found on the Capital Region Scene blog at dailygazette.com.
On Sept. 10, another Siena poll showed a completely different dynamic, with Owens comfortably ahead by 13 percentage points over Doheny.
Since then, independent voters have radically switched their allegiances, going from Owens up by 30 points to Doheny up by 2 points.
Additionally, the northwest chunk of the district, which had Owens up 2-1 over Doheny, is now almost tied.
“Owens is no stranger to close races, having won two nail-biting elections with less than 50 percent of the vote. Well, here we go again,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg sad in a statement.
Owens beat Doheny in a three-way race by 2,000 votes in 2010, and he won a three-way special election in 2009 by about 3,500 votes.
Because of redistricting, though, Owens is running in a district that includes new voters, which negates his incumbency advantage to a certain degree.
“Owens leads among voters he currently represents by 7 points, down from 24 points [in September’s poll], and Doheny leads among voters in the new part of the district by 10 points, up from 3 points,” Greenberg said.
Doheny has also made up ground among Republican voters since the last poll. He is up 7 percentage points, with 67 percent of Republican voters now supporting him. This is a critical bloc because of the roughly 400,00 registered voters in the district, about 174,000 are Republicans and 116,000 are Democrats.
Because this race is competitive, a lot of money has been spent by each campaign and by outside groups, who have bombarded the airwaves with advertisements.
“The negative advertising has taken a toll on the view voters have of both candidates. Owens continues to have a better favorability rating than Doheny, although 38 percent of voters now view him unfavorably, up from 22 percent,” Greenberg said.
“Doheny’s favorable rating is up 7 points and his unfavorable rating is up by 10 points. His favorability rating is now only positive by 2 points.”
The evaporating lead of Owens has been matched with a swing in presidential support in the district. President Barack Obama has seen a 4-point lead over Mitt Romney on Sept. 10 turn into a 5-point deficit in the latest figures.
This transition might not bode well for Owens, who could use a strong up-ticket figure to help his own cause.
The 21st Congressional District includes Fulton County and the northern half of Saratoga County. The poll interviewed 629 likely voters and has a margin of error of about 4 percentage points.