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Democrat Up In Race For Gillibrand's Seat

(AP Photo/Tim Roske)
This post was written by Steve Chaggaris, CBS News Director of Political Coverage and Anthony Salvanto, CBS News Director of Elections.

An update on the heated special election in the NY-20 congressional district, the race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand. A new Siena College poll out today has Democrat Scott Murphy up four points heading into the final weekend of campaigning.

Perhaps in an effort to take advantage of this momentum, the Democratic National Committee is running an ad on Albany-area TV touting this week's endorsement of Murphy by President Obama.

"In the worst recession in a generation, upstate New Yorkers deserve someone with the right skills to represent them in Washington. That's why President Obama is supporting Scott Murphy for Congress," an announcer says in the ad that will run through Monday. "[I]n Congress, he'll work with President Obama to spur investment and create jobs right here at home."

Mark Gersh, NCEC Director in Washington, DC and CBS News consultant, puts the contest and the region in perspective this way: "Historically upstate New York has favored Republican congressional districts…. [But] as of now, Republicans control only two seats north of New York City. Democrats have enjoyed enormous success in upstate and suburban New York since 2006. In those last two elections, John Hall (19th district), Kirsten Gillibrand (20th district), Mike Arcuri (24th district), Dan Maffei (25th district) and Eric Massa (29th district) have captured Republican seats.

Initially, Republican Jim Tedisco was poised to regain the 20th district, lifting spirits for the GOP in New York and nationally. The race has tightened. Although it may be unfair to assess this race as a referendum on the Obama budget and economic rescue plan, assuredly some observers will make that connection. If Republicans are to start a comeback in the 2010 cycle, winning this special election would seem to be a propitious place to reverse the trends of the last two cycles."

Update: The National Republican Congressional Committee has just released an ad on behalf of Tedisco that slams Murphy for opposing the death penalty for terrorists.

The ad begins with a scroll that says: "September 11, 2001. It was a national tragedy. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. Scott Murphy opposes the death penalty for the terrorists who committed these evil acts."

Shots of the 9/11 terrorists flash across the screen – the last headshot is of Osama Bin Laden.

The commercial ends with an announcer stating: "When asked if he opposed the death penalty for terrorists? Scott Murphy replies 'Yeah.'"

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