With three months to go until Election Day, U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei holds a seven-point lead in the 24th Congressional District with Republican challenger John Katko "within striking distance," according to a new poll released Monday.
The poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm, on behalf of the Katko campaign found Maffei, D-Syracuse, leads Katko, R-Camillus by a 43 to 36 percent margin. When voters who say they are leaning towards supporting either of the candidates are included, Maffei is ahead by five points — 45 to 40 percent.
While Katko's name recognition — 36 percent — is low, the firm said Katko will see undecided voters back his candidacy as he becomes more well known throughout the district.
"The erosion of President Obama's political support and the out-of-touch nature of Dan Maffei puts the 24th Congressional District in play," the polling memo reads. "The incumbent is politically weak. John Katko is already competitive with Dan Maffei despite his lack of name identification, which will only improve.
"Undecided voters are poised to break overwhelmingly toward John in this campaign. John is very well positioned in this race. The final step will be to ensure John has the financial resources needed to increase his name ID, articulate his message of cleaning up Congress and defend himself against the attack ads already being planned by Dan Maffei and the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee)."
Katko said the poll is evidence that his campaign message is catching on with voters.
"Residents of NY-24 are tired of the inaction in Congress and tired of sending the same, ineffective and out-of-touch incumbents to Washington," Katko said.
Kane Miller, Maffei's campaign manager, didn't specifically address the poll's findings in a statement provided to The Citizen. But Miller did say the Syracuse Democrat is "well positioned" to win re-election in November by focusing on economic issues.
"While Rep. Maffei is focused on growing the economy, John Katko is pushing a radical and reckless agency that hurts women and seniors in central New York and he has no plan to create jobs," Miller said.
Katko faces an uphill battle in the 24th District race, mainly because of Maffei's large fundraising advantage. According to campaign finance filings submitted to the Federal Election Commission, Maffei had $1.45 million cash on hand as of June 30. Katko had more than $357,000 in the bank at the end of June.
Three of the biggest political prognosticators have Maffei favored to win in the 24th District. Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball both rate the race "likely Democratic." Rothenberg Political Report rates the NY-24 race "Democrat favored."
The poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies is the first to be released by any polling firm or independent group on the 24th Congressional District race. Public Opinion Strategies surveyed 400 likely voters from July 27-29. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
The 24th Congressional District includes all of Cayuga, Onondaga and Wayne counties, plus the western part of Oswego County.