Is The NY-26 Special Election A Spoiler Race?

by Jonathan Chait | May 24, 2011

The Republican spin about the special election in New York is that it's a fluky event brought about by a third-party spoiler candidacy. I initially gave that line some credence, but the closer I've looked, the less true it seems.

It's true that Jack Davis is running as a Tea Party candidate. But he's not running a conservative campaign. He's running as a populist, emphasizing economic protectionism:

Republican groups have spent huge sums painting Davis as a right-winger, and they have succeeding in getting that message through to most conservatives. PPP's most recent poll shows that the Davis vote tilts only very slightly right. Davis has an overall favorability rating of 23%. Here's how it breaks down by ideology:

Very liberal                     15%

Somewhat liberal           21%

Moderate                        28%

Somewhat conservative 24%

Very conservative           20%

There's a bit of a rightward tilt here, but it's a modest one. Davis gets 8% of the Democratic vote, 16% of the Republican vote, and 17% of the independent vote. His favorability among Democrats and Republicans is the same, at 23% (24% among independents.)

Again, it seems likely that Davis hurts Corwin and helps Hochul. But the partisan effect of his candidacy is smaller than the spin suggests. If Hochul wins, it's because she's vastly more popular (+14 favorability) than Corwin (-18 favorability).

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/88934/the-ny-26-special-election-spoiler-race