Exclusive: S.I. Memo

We’ve obtained, direct from Washington, a copy of a poll performed for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee of Vito Fossella‘s congressional district, with an eye toward a challenge next year. It’s a partisan poll, so you should probably rotate the results about 73 degrees right to compensate for spin. Even given that, though, the results could augur a real race there next year.

The summary, from Peter Hart‘s polling firm, finds “an ominous note for Republican incumbents such as Vito Fossella.

“Despite Congressman Fossella’s relatively easy reelection victory last November, the environment has turned harshly against Republicans, and his solid party-line voting record makes him vulnerable to a credible Democratic challenger. Each of the three possible Democratic contenders tested in the survey would present a strong challenge, although Councilman Mike McMahon has the slight edge because he starts with a strong base in his council district.”

The news for Vito isn’t all bad. The pollsters concede that “Congressman Fossella enjoys a solid job rating and is relatively well-liked,” noting that 56% of voters give him good or excellent marks in job performance.

But only 43% of the voters surveyed said they’d like to see Vito reelected. And when pollsters asked voters whether they’d prefer a Democrat with an “independent approach” to a Republican who supports the President, more votes swung away from Vito.

Much will depend on national trends, and on where the Social Security fight is more than a year from now. Democrats would like to think this is their 1994, and we go back and forth on how sanguine New York’s Dems should be. But the DCCC is clearly hoping a serious candidate — the three they tested were McMahon, Diane Savino, and Mike Cusick — will jump in to the race.

“The poll was conducted May 17 and 18, 2005, among a representative sample of 401 likely voters. The margin of error is ±5.0 percentage points.”

NOTE: We should note that Fossella wins the three head-to-head contests the DCCC tested.