Why is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) releasing a poll that underscores their already weakened situation in the upcoming NY-11 special election? It’s unusual when a major party campaign committee allows a poll unfavorable to one of their candidates to reach the public domain, but that’s exactly what the DCCC has done.

Could it be to lower expectations in what, on paper, should be a competitive special election but doesn’t seem so at this particular time? Quite possibly.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has yet to schedule the special election, but it will likely be at the end of March. This is consistent with the allowable time frame under New York election law, based upon the time of the office formally becoming vacant.

The Global Strategy Group (GSG), polling for the DCCC, (Jan. 16-18; 404 registered NY-11 voters) just completed an exhaustive survey in the Staten Island/Brooklyn congressional district and their findings play very well for all-but-official Republican nominee Dan Donovan, the Richmond County district attorney.

According to the results, Donovan is off to a commanding 48-28 percent (including “leaners” for both candidates) advantage over state Assemblyman Michael Cusick, the man who most believe will win the Democratic nomination. This result is even stronger when understanding that Republicans hold only a 43-42 percent edge in party identification within the polling sample. For his part, Cusick has yet to commit to becoming a candidate and data such as this floating in the public domain from Democratic sources may cause him to entertain second thoughts about running.

But, GSG dug deep into Donovan’s potential negatives and found that, by and large, the electorate is not moving away from him. They drilled down into people’s feelings over the Eric Garner case, the man police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked to death while arresting him for selling single cigarettes and then subsequently escaped indictment from a Richmond County grand jury. Donovan and his staff were responsible for presenting the case evidence to the empaneled citizens.

Global Strategy asked the poll respondents whether their view of Donovan’s handling of the Garner case would affect their vote in the upcoming special congressional election. Here is the two-part question posed to sample members in which they were asked their opinion of each described scenario:

[SPLIT A – PERFORMANCE] Donovan’s opponents say that no matter your opinion of the case, Donovan failed at his job to get an indictment, even if he did not personally agree with the charge. Then, Donovan has refused to comment in detail or release information about his handling of the case to the public to answer questions about his performance.

[SPLIT B – DIVISIVE] Donovan’s opponents say that no matter your opinion of the case, Donovan’s handling of it has divided our community. Instead of clearing the police officer of wrong-doing or bringing the case to an open, public trial, Donovan’s secretive approach has led to protests and bad feelings on both sides without a way to bring our community back to normal.

The results take Donovan’s side in the Performance option 37-22 percent; and respond in his favor 39-17 percent on the Divisive scenario. On the ballot test taken right after asking this two-part question, Donovan would lead Cusick 49-33 percent.

Therefore, what clearly appeared to be the Democrats’ best angle of attack against Donovan – and the Republican issued several statements asking that the congressional race not develop into a referendum on this one case – seems to be making little difference in people’s political preference.

We have seen a great deal change from the beginning of short-term special elections until their conclusions in the past few years. Whether this race becomes competitive as we move closer to March is an open question, but the early phase certainly suggests DA Dan Donovan will hold this vacant seat for the GOP.

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