By Brian Tumulty, Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Seventy-eight percent of New Yorkers have an unfavorable view of Congress about a year before many of them will help decide at least six competitive House races, according to a poll released today by the Siena College Research Institute.
Dissatisfaction with Congress stood at 80 percent in upstate areas where four of the competitive races are located.
Only 18 percent of the 822 registered voters surveyed had a favorable opinion of Congress.
Voters also blamed Republicans (59 percent) more than President Barack Obama (30 percent) for the recent partial federal government shutdown. Eight percent blamed both sides.
Obama maintained a favorability rating of 55 percent statewide, with 42 percent viewing him unfavorably. A 53 percent majority of upstate voters gave him an unfavorable rating.
Obama was most popular in New York City, where 67 percent viewed him favorably. The New York City suburbs in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island were closer to the statewide average, giving him a 52 percent favorability rating.
The survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points, was conducted Oct. 14-16 during the tail end of the deadlock over the government shutdown and raising the nation's debt ceiling.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates three Democrat-held House seats and three Republican-held seats around the state as competitive in 2014. The report rates each district as leaning in favor of the party holding it now.
New York has 27 congressional districts, most of which are either safely Democrat or safely Republican. Nationwide, the Cook report lists 199 House districts as solidly Republican and 165 as solidly Democrat, which means the 2014 battle for majority control will be waged on a limited battlefield.
The report last week changed its outlook on Republican Rep. Tom Reed's 23rd Congressional District in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes region from "likely Republican" to "leans Republican," meaning likely Democratic candidate Martha Robertson is seen as having a better chance of unseating Reed.
Two other New York Republicans, Reps. Chris Gibson of Kinderhook in the Hudson Valley and Michael Grimm of Staten Island, also hold seats rated as leaning Republican.
The three Democrats with districts considered competitive next year are Reps. Sean Maloney of Cold Spring in the lower Hudson Valley, Bill Owens of Plattsburgh and Tim Bishop of Southampton on the East End of Long Island.
"Reed's well-publicized personal tax problems and surprising vote against reopening the government (at a time most of his New York Republican colleagues voted the opposite way) could take a toll on his 2014 re-election prospects,'' Cook wrote last week.
Reed and Rep. Chris Collins of the Buffalo area were the only two of New York's six Republican House members to vote last week against ending the shutdown and avoiding a potential default on the nation's debt.
The agreement approved by the House and Senate last week calls for negotiators from each chamber to agree on a long-term budget plan by Dec. 13.
In a conference call with reporters last week, Reed said appointing budget negotiators "does nothing to the underlying debt'' or to produce spending reductions.
"Appointing conferees on the budget process is something that I appreciate and I hope they are sincere on it,'' he said. "And I will work with those conferees.''
Gibson, who represents the 19th Congressional District covering the upper Hudson Valley and Catskills region, is facing wealthy Democratic candidate Sean Eldridge, who has donated $465,000 in personal funds of the $1.25 million he raised through the end of September.
Grimm, whose 11th Congressional District covers Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, is facing Democrat Domenic Recchia, a member of the New York City Council from Brooklyn.
Among the three Democrats facing competitive races next year, only Maloney does not have an officially declared Republican opponent.
Former Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth of Bedford has raised $626,368 since the beginning of this year, but remains officially in the exploratory phase of a possible campaign against Maloney in the 18th Congressional District covering Putnam and Orange counties and parts of Westchester and Dutchess counties.
Owens, who represents the state's North Country, has two Republicans vying for their party's nomination to challenge him - Joseph Gilbert, the emergency services director in St. Lawrence County, and Elise Stefanik, who worked as a staff member on former President George W. Bush's Domestic Policy Council.
Bishop also has two Republicans vying for their party's nomination to challenge him - state Sen. Lee Zeldin and George Demos, an attorney who formerly worked for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.