Democrat Nate McMurray has the attention of national Democrats one day after a Spectrum News/Siena College Research Institute poll showed him within striking distance of incumbent Rep. Chris Collins (R).
The numbers out of New York's 27th Congressional District show a statistical dead heat. When asked who they'd vote for, three weeks out from Election Day, respondents went with Collins, with 46 percent, compared to McMurray with 43 percent.
Erie County Democrats hailed the results and said the "Red to Blue" list indicates the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will pour financial and ground support into the race leading up to Election Day.
Republicans responded with a big name - former presidential adviser Steve Bannon.
"This is a strongly Republican district that is struggling to determine how it's going to vote in this congressional race," said Steve Greenberg with the Siena College Research Institute.
"I think it's recognition of the fundraising we've done," McMurray said. "We've done that through small dollar amounts, $70 is the average donation, so it's a combination of fundraising and, plus, the polling."
UB Political Science professor Jacob Neiheisel said this recognition from the national party could be a game-changer for the McMurray campaign.
"It certainly means you can be upon the airwaves, which has a certain kind of credibility," he said. "It certainly means you can have more in the way of GOTV, get out the vote efforts."
Erie County Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy isn't phased by McMurray's new supporters.
"With al lthe things that have been thrown at this situation and the non-stop media coverage, you would think that Nate would be ahead quite a bit by now, and I think in a more tight swing district that would be the case," he said. "This is not a tight swing district, this is a deep red conservative Republican seat."
Siena College Research Institute in partnership with Spectrum News polled 490 people between October 6 and October 11. What it found was a race that is basically a toss-up with Collins' advantage falling well within the 4.7 percent margin of error.
"What we do know is that a lot of Republicans, a lot of independents who would normally vote for the Republican candidate, who will likely vote for Marc Molinaro for governor, vote for their Republican candidates for the state Legislature, there's a sizable number of them right now who don't want to vote for Chris Collins," Greenberg said.
The poll does not ask voters directly about Collins facing federal charges related to insider trading. However, 49 percent of voters have an unfavorable opinion of the congressman, compared to only 37 percent favorable. Even amongst Republicans 35 percent have an unfavorable view of him compared to 48 percent favorable.
"That's not terrible if it was the whole electorate, but when that's your party, that's not really good and that may explain why, right now, nearly a quarter of Republicans say they are supporting Nate McMurray for Congress rather than their standard bearer Chris Collins,” Greenberg said.
In August, Collins suspended his re-election campaign after he was indicted on federal charges of insider trading. Weeks later, Collins decided to remain on the ballot, then took up actively campaigning with a promise to serve if re-elected. Most recently, a judge scheduled Collins’ trial for 2020.
Greenberg says the district remains the most Republican-leaning in New York when it comes to enrollment, and by an 18-point margin, both want a GOP-controlled Congress and approve of the job President Donald Trump is doing.
"By far the best numbers for Trump we've seen in a congressional district in New York, one of the best numbers we've seen in a congressional district around the country," he said.
Still, Greenberg says McMurray remains an underdog in the race and needs to not just bring more Republicans and independents to his side, but also do better with his own party.
Among Republicans, 63 percent said they'd vote for Collins, while among Democrats, McMurray appears to have much more support, with 73 percent. Among independents, McMurray posts a 46 to 45 percent edge.
Collins has been in Congress since his election win in 2012. McMurray has served as town supervisor on Grand Island.