It looks like there’s a real possibility of a major upset in the Delaware Senate primary on Tuesday night, with insurgent conservative Christine O’Donnell leading longtime Congressman and Governor Mike Castle 47-44. That 3 point lead is well within the poll’s margin of error.
If Castle is indeed defeated Tuesday night it will be yet another sign that conservatives have a strangle hold on the Republican Party and moderates may or may not be welcome anymore. Castle has an overwhelming 69-21 lead with moderate voters but they only make up 33% of the likely primary electorate. O’Donnell has a 62-31 lead with conservatives that’s more than enough to propel her to the overall lead.
It’s clear that Castle’s popularity has taken a sharp turn in the wrong direction over the last month. An August PPP poll found his favorability with Delaware Republicans at a 60/25 spread. Now his favorables within the party are negative at 43/47. That’s largely a product of 55% of voters in his party saying they think he’s too liberal compared to 37% who think he’s about right.
GOP voters are pretty sharply divided about O’Donnell as well. 45% have a favorable opinion of her with 41% seeing her unfavorably. Only 50% of primary voters think she’s fit to hold public office but she does much better than Castle on the ideology front- 53% think she’s about right.
If O’Donnell pulls it out Tuesday night it will be a major victory for Delaware’s small but united group of Tea Party voters. Just 25% of Republicans in the state consider themselves to be members of that movement but they give her a 79-18 advantage that’s more than enough to overcome her 52-39 deficit with everyone else.
My views on the candidate are now… well, infamous, but if PPP is right, then the conventional wisdom of how conservative a candidate Delaware Republicans prefer is wildly out of date. The pollster must have asked how each candidate matched up against Democrat Chris Coons; I suspect we’ll see if PPP found similar numbers to Rasmussen shortly…