By the numbers alone, Delaware is a tough state for GOP candidates. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 100,000 in a state with only 620,000 voters. The last time the state went for the Republican presidential candidate was 1988, and it hasn’t sent a Republican senator to Washington since 1994.
Even if Christine O’Donnell did not carry her burden of controversial television clips, she would face an extremely difficult challenge. Recent polls haven’t been promising: The September 16 Rasmussen poll has her opponent, Democrat Chris Coons, ahead by 11 points, while the September 18 Fox News poll gives him a 15-point lead. Both polls show that a large number of voters already have negative feelings about O’Donnell — 60 percent in the Fox poll say that she is not qualified to be a senator, while 54 percent in the Rasmussen poll viewed her unfavorably.
Coons’s website urges voters “to show Delaware won’t elect a Tea Party senator.” And, unfortunately, that message has some resonance. Forty percent of voters in the Fox poll were strongly opposed to the tea-party movement, while another 9 percent were somewhat opposed. “[Delaware] is still a state that is very centrist in its own politics. I don’t think that fact has changed in the last two weeks or two months, to be honest,” said GOP strategist Don Mell.
How can O’Donnell prevail in such circumstances? She will have to sell two ideas to voters: that Republican policies will benefit the state more than Democratic ones would, and that she herself is qualified to represent Delaware in the Senate. And that is what her campaign has set out to do.
O’Donnell’s first step is reintroducing herself to the voters. “It’s no secret that there’s been a rather unflattering portrait of me portrayed,” she said during a candidate forum last week. According to a campaign spokesman, she plans on “traveling throughout the state, unveiling her positions on a variety of issues over the course of the campaign and . . . contrast[ing them] with those of her opponent in the race.”
Signaling her determination to concentrate on Delaware, O’Donnell announced last week that she would no longer appear on national media outlets. In an interview with Sean Hannity (her last such appearance), she said the exposure wouldn’t help her get votes. “I instead want to go to as many town-hall forums, as many candidate forums, as many church picnics that I can fit into my schedule, so that I can meet the voters,” she explained.