Surprise brewing in NY-22?

It’s been a while since we last checked on Maurice Hinchey, the Congressman from New York who thinks George Bush let Osama bin Laden get away on purpose to justify the invasion of Iraq and that Karl Rove planted the Rathergate memos. In fact, the last time we heard from Hinchey, it was because no one was hearing from Hinchey, as his campaign refused to discuss the incumbent’s votes in the House or his positions on the issues.  How has that strategy worked out?  Not terribly well, according to a new internal poll shared with Republican donors in NY-22, which shows Hinchey at 44% — with a 96% name recognition.

George Phillips, the Republican challenger for the seat, comes close to the margin of error at 37%.  The district is listed by Cook as a D+6, not nearly Democratic enough for Hinchey’s lunacy.  The survey sample has a D+3 split, which makes it a fairly good approximation of the district in normal cycles but may underestimate Republican enthusiasm in these midterms.  Other notable results:

  • Generic ballot – GOP wins by 2, but with 32% undecided.
  • Phillips’ name recognition is at 53%, much higher than an internal poll in March (26%)
  • Only 25% declared themselves likely to support someone already involved in Washington politics, while 46% said “less likely”

Contrast these results to five months ago.  Democrats led the generic ballot in NY-22 among likely voters by double digits, 44/33.  On Hinchey specifically, only 15% said they would vote to replace him.  At that time, Hinchey led Phillips 54/29 and looked like he had command of his re-election bid.

Phillips has made up 18 points in the past five months, and Hinchey is now well below 50%.  This is a race Republicans can win, if they get behind the challenger now and press hard.  And given Hinchey’s antics, this is a race Republicans really need to win.

Update: I contacted George Phillips through his campaign for a comment on the polling, and he replied, “We are taking nothing for granted at this point and still have a long battle ahead of us, but we’re very excited that our strong grassroots campaign has caught the attention of so many New Yorkers who have had enough with the mess in Washington and are ready to take back control of their government.”

Update II: One e-mailer asked for a better description of NY-22.  It sits on a good chunk of the NY-PA border and contains the cities of Kingston, Poughkeepsie, and Binghamton.  It’s probably better known as home of the Woodstock music festivals.