Race of the Day, NY-24

October 21, 2010

With New York Republicans predicting big gains at the congressional level this fall, Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.) is one incumbent who appears to be in good position to survive next month’s expected GOP wave.

New numbers from The Hill Midterm Election Poll out Wednesday gave Arcuri a 10-point edge over Republican Richard Hanna. It’s the largest lead for any sophomore Democrat The Hill found in Week 3 of our polling, which will span 42 competitive House districts before Election Day.

This contest is a rematch of the 2008 race, which Arcuri won by a narrow margin over Hanna — 51 percent to 48. President Obama won the district by just as narrow a margin over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) two years ago, prevailing by just two percentage points.

Hanna fashions himself a centrist Republican. He’s pro-abortion rights and, in a recent interview with Time magazine, said he voted for former President Jimmy Carter.

But Hanna has assailed the current leadership in Washington and argued that Arcuri has aided and abetted runaway spending in Washington.

For his part, Arcuri has worked to create some distance with his party’s leadership. He voted against healthcare reform — a vote he has touted as a sign of his independence. But both Hanna and the national GOP have hit the incumbent for voting in favor of the stimulus.

The strategy for Republicans in this upstate New York district is much like it is in middle-of-the-road to conservative districts across the country — paint the Democrat as a pawn of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democratic leadership in Congress.

“After promising to be an independent voice, Arcuri voted for the failed Obama-Pelosi stimulus, then turned around and said maybe he shouldn’t have voted for it,” said the narrator in a recent independent expenditure ad released by the National Republican Congressional Committee. “But Arcuri still thinks the stimulus will work.”

It’s a tack that so far doesn’t appear to be working too well for Hanna and national Republicans.

Arcuri’s strength comes among independent voters, where he leads Hanna by nearly 20 points — 46 percent to 27.

The Hill poll found other positive indicators for Arcuri. His favorables are high — 52 percent to 29, even with more than 70 percent of likely voters in the district disapproving of the job Congress is doing.

He’s also winning over a significant number of Republicans. Arcuri has the backing of 19 percent of Republicans in our poll, while just 8 percent of Democrats are backing Hanna.

Former President Bill Clinton headlined a rally for Arcuri last week, and Democrats appear confident the two-term incumbent will survive this fall, even in a district that’s tough terrain for Democrats in a year like 2010.

Another factor that’s not helping Hanna — the state’s Republican gubernatorial nominee. Carl Paladino, is down big to state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) and, to put it mildly, Paladino has proven he has a penchant for attracting the wrong kind of attention to his campaign.

Without a strong nominee at the top of the ticket, Republican House challengers are on their own next month, and in New York’s 24th, Arcuri appears poised to hold his ground.

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