Meanwhile, Poughkeepsie Journal endorses Gibson
Last week, a poll commissioned by the Chris Gibson campaign claimed that the incumbent Republican Congressman (NY-19) holds a 26-point lead of 56%-30% over his Democratic challenger, Sean Eldridge.
Now Eldridge—possibly concerned that any impression of being hopelessly behind could suppress his base’s enthusiasm—has swiftly released his own counter-poll, claiming to show him “just” 10 points behind, 36%-46%.
Gibson’s result was in line with the only independent poll taken of the race this Fall, conducted by Siena College and Time Warner Cable News, which showed Gibson up 24 points in early September. (Over the summer, an early poll conducted for the United Transportation Union showed Gibson ahead by 27%.)
Both competing campaign polls surveyed approximately 400 voters, and claimed a margin of error of about 5%. Gibson used the firm Public Opinion Strategies, while Eldridge used the equally-excitingly-named Global Strategies Group. Unlike Siena, neither of the two partisan campaigns released the “crosstabs” for their poll results, data which helps statheads to verify a poll’s methodology. Both purport to have surveyed “likely” voters, without specifying how they measured that likelihood.
Perhaps most tellingly, both polls show a large number of undecided voters: 14% in Gibson’s poll, 18% in Eldridge’s.
While Eldridge fans may take heart from the counter-poll, 10 percentage points is still a lot in the world of politics. Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by less than 4 points in 2012, yet that was considered a resounding victory. So Eldridge’s pollster using the word “just” to describe a 10-point deficit seems kind of spin-ish.
Meanwhile, Gibson fans can find comfort in an endorsement this morning from the generally centrist Poughkeepsie Journal. The “PoJo” editorial board writes:
In his four years in office, Gibson has proven to be a reasonable, responsible lawmaker, someone willing to work across the aisle, as shown by his high independent rating scored by Congressional Quarterly on key votes.... Indicative of his bipartisan approach, Gibson has worked extremely well with neighboring congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat [on the farm bill]. They also have teamed up to get the House of Representatives to approve defunding the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's outrageously detrimental "new capacity zone," which is causing electric rates to rise in our region. Gibson has been a strong fighter on behalf of Lyme patients throughout the valley, pushing for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to devote more funds to the effort and directing it to work on a better diagnostic test.
If one were to assume Eldridge’s poll is more accurate—as most Democratic partisans will assume—he still has a big mountain left to climb. Gibson would need only win less than a quarter of those undedideds (22.7% of them, to be exact) to prevail by just over 50% (46%+4.1%=50.1%). Eldridge meanwhile would have to win well more than three-quarters of undecideds to pull ahead.
By contrast, if Gibson’s numbers were assumed correct, there would be no way for Eldridge to catch up even if he captured all of the undecideds. He’d also have to cut into Gibson’s committed supporters.
So, what is the public to believe? Polling is a notoriously inexact and even biased science, and much could change between now and Election Day. (The last few weeks of a campaign is often when “oppo research,” i.e. personal smear tactics, tend to rear their ugly head.)
If one splits the difference between these results, the average of the two is roughly an 18-point lead for Gibson: 51%-33% with 16% undecided. To the extent that polls tend to narrow as one gets closer to the election, the final margin will almost surely be somewhat tighter than that.