(CNN) – The Republican National Committee said Thursday it is pumping more cash into the March 31 special election contest in New York’s 20th congressional district, transferring $100,000 to the New York State Republican Committee, as a new poll shows sliding support for the GOP candidate in that race.
“The RNC is proud to make an investment in our state parties and hard working grassroots," RNC Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement. "These funds will be used to show our commitment to re-establishing a strong GOP presence in the Northeast. Our party is devoting the energy and resources necessary to win the special election in New York’s 20th Congressional district.”
The new spending comes as a Siena poll released Thursday suggests GOP New York assemblyman Jim Tedisco's lead over Democratic venture capitalist Scott Murphy has plummeted by two-thirds over the past two weeks, to just 4 points, despite the district's traditionally Republican bent.
The poll of 712 voters, conducted March 9-10, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
Murphy recently won the backing of the Independence Party - the first time a Democrat in that district has won the right to run on that party's line as well - and his new gains stem from a surge in support among independent voters. Two weeks ago, Tedisco was leading 45-31 among unaffiliated voters. Now the edge belongs to Murphy, 43-37 percent. Another worrying sign for Tedisco: his rival has the support of 72 percent of the district's Democrats, while he has the backing of just 65 percent of NY-20's Republicans.
The RNC started the national party money chase in NY-20 nearly a month ago with an $80,000 ad buy supporting Jim Tedisco, the New York assemblyman hoping to take back the seat for the GOP after Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the U.S. Senate. Former Republican presidential candidate and New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani also hit the trail with Tedisco in upstate New York.
Steele has attached serious symbolic importance the race's result. After traveling to New York to meet with state party officials in January, he called the race a “battle royale” and named the March 31 special election as a top priority for the party before the focus turns to this fall’s gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also paid for ads backing Scott Murphy, the venture capitalist fighting Tedisco, though they have not revealed the size oftheir expenditures.
The national parties aren't the only outside groups weighing in on the first congressional race since the inauguration: The conservative Our Country Deserves Better Committee - which released ads last year supporting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and attacking President Obama’s policies - said earlier this month it would be funding hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of television and radio airtime in Albany and in the expensive New York City market in the race's final weeks, attacking Murphy over his support for the president's stimulus plan.