There is no doubt Delaware Republicans picked the weakest candidate to match up against Democrat Chris Coons for U.S. Senate. Coons enters the short general election contest with a 50-34 lead over Republican Christine O’Donnell. Had longtime Congressman Mike Castle won last night, he would have a 45-35 lead over Coons. Coons performs 26 points better against O’Donnell than against Castle. Castle has been elected statewide 12 times, but O’Donnell has lost bids for each of Delaware’s Senate seats by margins of 30 and 41 points, in stronger Democratic years 2006 and 2008.
Castle would have pulled a remarkable 30% of Democrats, almost twice as many as Coons’ 16% of Republicans, and held a 45-27 lead with independents. Against O’Donnell, Coons almost reverses those trends, getting 25% of Republicans to O’Donnell’s 13% of Democrats, and flipping independents by 24 points to a 42-36 lead.
O’Donnell is much better known but much less liked than Coons, with a 29-50 favorability rating to Coons’ 31-33. Almost as many, 40%, think O’Donnell is too conservative, as the 45% who think Castle “about right.” By a 49-31 margin, Delawareans think O’Donnell not fit to hold public office, but they see Castle as fit by a 59-26 margin—a difference of 51 points.
“A small group of Delaware Republicans most likely cost their party this seat and any chance at gaining control of the Senate last night,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “What has looked like an easy Republican win the entire cycle now looks like an easy one for the Democrats.”
PPP surveyed 958 likely Delaware voters on September 11th and 12th. The margin of error is +/-3.2%. Other factors, such as refusal to be interviewed and weighting, may introduce additional error that is more difficult to quantify.