Sean Trende writes at Real Clear Politics that Republican Joe DioGuardi could beat New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand:

If you've been following the New York Senate polls closely for the last year, you've noticed that Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been hovering around 50 percent for most of the past two years. This is dangerous territory for any incumbent to be in - by my count, only three incumbents in the last three years who averaged less than 50 percent in August polling have gone on to win in November.

But it was still something of a surprise when a flurry of likely voter polls taken shortly after the September 14 primary showed a very close race. A Rasmussen Reports poll showed Gillibrand leading Republican Joseph DioGuardi by 10 points, 49 percent to 39 percent. Quinnipiac and SurveyUSA showed Gillibrand with 6- and 1-point leads. Marist weighed in with a poll showing Gillibrand up 11 points, but among registered voters who described themselves as "very enthusiastic" about voting, Gillibrand actually trailed DioGuardi, 52 percent to 43 percent.

So what are we to make of this? Could Gillibrand actually lose this race?

Let's be clear up front: A straight-up Republican win would be unheard of. No Democratic senator has ever been defeated for re-election in the Empire State, and the last time a non-Democrat won an open seat in New York in a two-way race was in 1958. The typical formula for a non-Democratic win in New York is to have a Republican running on the Liberal Party line who splits the anti-Republican vote with the Democrat; this is in part how Alfonse D'Amato and James Buckley won their Senate races. This won't happen this year - there isn't even an independent Liberal Party in New York anymore.

Nevertheless, it is certainly possible for DioGuardi to pull off the upset, though I certainly would require some decent odds before taking the bet. DioGuardi would need to make the final results a little better than what is presently showing up in SurveyUSA's crosstabs. I think he can do this.

Trende maps out DioGuardi's path to victory here.

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