(CNN) - A new poll indicates that former New York Gov. George Pataki is in a dead heat with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in a hypothetical Senate election match up. There's only one problem: The former two-term Republican governor has not publicly indicated that he has any desire to challenge Gillibrand, a Democrat.
According to a Marist College Institute for Public Opinion survey released Monday, 47 percent of New York State voters would back Pataki and 45 percent would support Gillibrand if the general election were held today, with 8 percent undecided.
The poll also indicates that 27 percent think Gillibrand's doing either an excellent or good job in office, with just over one in three saying she's doing a fair job, 17 percent adding that she's performing poorly and just over one in five undecided. Gillibrand, who was a congresswoman from upstate New York, was appointed to the Senate last year by New York Gov. David Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton, who stepped down to become secretary of State. Gillibrand is running this year to serve the final two years of Clinton's term.
"Former Governor Pataki is the big unknown for Gillibrand," says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, "With her approval rating at 27 percent, Gillibrand will almost certainly have her work cut out for her if Pataki enters the race."
But the GOP's had a tough time trying to get a top name Republican to enter the race. Former New York City mayor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said no to a bid, as has nine-term Rep. Peter King, magazine editor and publisher and real estate billionaire Mort Zuckerman, and Dan Senor, a Defense Department official during President George W. Bush's administration. Senor is married to CNN anchor Campbell Brown.
When matched up against the three Republican candidates who are in the race, Bruce Blakeman, Joseph DioGuardi and David Malpass, the survey indicates that Gillibrand tops each GOP challenger by around a two to one margin in hypothetical November showdowns.
The Marist College poll was conducted March 23-24, with 775 New York State registered voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percent points.
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