The Club for Growth is getting involved in the special election for Rep. John McHugh’s (R-N.Y.) seat, and not on behalf of the Republican candidate.

The Club on Thursday released a poll it paid for showing centrist GOP Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava holding a statistically insignificant lead over both Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman and Democrat Bill Owens. She is at 20 percent, while the others are both at 17 percent.

The poll, conducted by Basswood Research, betrays the Club’s concern with Scozzafava’s record. In another question, the pollster asks: “Would you prefer your next member of Congress be a liberal Democrat, a liberal Republican, or a Conservative party candidate who would align himself with Republicans in Congress?”

According to the release, though, the head-to-head matchup was tested after this and other issue-related questions, so it's feasible that the respondents could have been primed to oppose Scozzafava. Generally, the head-to-head matchup is tested first.

Hoffman's poll from earlier this month showed Scozzafava leading with 30 percent, while Owens was at 20 and Hoffman was at 19.

Scozzafava’s opponents have tried hard to affix the “liberal” tag to her candidacy, and the Club’s use of the word to describe the two candidates besides Hoffman suggests they might get behind him.

“Dede Scozzafava’s liberal record that includes support for card check legislation, Gov. Paterson’s budget and President Obama’s stimulus bill makes her very vulnerable,” Basswood pollster Jon Lerner said.

The poll surveyed 300 likely voters. McHugh became Secretary of the Army last week.