In the latest Siena College poll released on Oct. 15, Owens led the field with 33 percent followed by Scozzafava at 29 percent and Hoffman at 23 percent. But, it was Hoffman who had gained the most since an Oct. 1 Siena survey; Hoffman moved up seven points in that time while Owens gained five points and Scozzafava lost five points. (Sources on both sides of the partisan aisle suggest that internal polling shows Scozzafava in third place now.)OK, Chris Cillizza has nearly got it right here, including the belief that Scozzafava could be headed for a third-place finish, which I included in my American Spectator article today. However, the suggestion that Hoffman "has reached the limit" is nuts, as is any assertion that there are "not enough Republicans" in the the district. McHugh, with a 74% ACU rating, got 2-to-1 majorities even in the bad-for-Republican years of 2006-08.
Opinions vary on whether Hoffman can rise higher or whether he has reached the limit (or close to it) of his support.
Conventional wisdom suggests that while the North Country seat leans to Republicans in terms of registration -- as of April 2009 there were roughly 46,000 more GOPers than Democrats in the district -- there are simply not enough Republicans to split the base vote between Hoffman and Scozzafava and have either one win. (The district has long been represented by a Republican but President Obama carried it with 52 percent in 2008.)
It's a special election! Turnout will be low and a grassroots conservative pro-life candidate like Hoffman has all the advantages in such a contest. Obama's 52 percent in 2008 is irrelevant, because (a) that was before the economy sunk out of sight, (b) Obama's not a candidate in this election, so Owen won't have the magic coattails of Hope, and (b) Obama was running against John McCain, who was a lot more like Scozzafava than Hoffman.
If the voters of NY23 are in a mad-as-hell, pox-on-both-your-houses mood, Hoffman's their guy. Take McHugh's 65% vote in 2008 as a barometer of the basic partisan alignment of the electorate in NY23.
If that vote splits fairly strongly for Hoffman, then the likely outcome will be something on the order of Hoffman 40%, Owen 35% and Scozzafava 25%. But I'm guessing the conservative advantage over the RINOs in terms of "ground game" -- elitist pro-choice Republicans can't match the pro-life Catholic grandmas in terms of walking precincts and manning phone banks -- will make the margin even wider.
Should Scozzafava finish under 20% (and she easily could), then you could see Hoffman get 45% or more -- a solid plurality. Were I a gambling man, I'd definitely bet this one Hoffman to win, Owens to place and Scozzafava to show.