Friday, September 17, 2010

I thought she was a regional candidate and O'Donnell's win affirms that

Like many observers I predicted US Rep Mike Castle would defeat Christine O'Donnell in the GOP US Senate primary and I was wrong. In my Aug 29,2009 post I mentioned I perceived her greatest chance would come from the increased Republican registrations in Kent & Sussex Counties since 2000 and decreased Republican registrations in New Castle County over the last decade. On this point I was correct,but I did not anticipate the type of turnout we saw in Sussex County.

While voter turnout statewide was up from what I predicted at 8-10% based on prior turnout, that was most prevalent in Sussex County where O'Donnell almost beat Castle 2-1.

Kent & Sussex provided 18,653 (Sussex) + 9669 (Kent) for 28,322 votes out of 81,300 registered Republican voters .
New Castle County provided 29,262 votes out of 101,496 registered voters
Despite having 20,196 fewer registered Republicans, Kent and Sussex only provided 940 fewer voters. This unheard of turnout combined with O'Donnell's popularity South of the C&D Canal to give her the statewide victory.

UNITED STATES SENATOR--New Castle--Kent----Sussex----State
CASTLE MICHAEL N.--------- -16,891-----3,518---6,612-----27,021
O'DONNELL CHRISTINE------ 12,371-----6,151---12,041----30,563
Office Total----------- ----------29,262-----9,669---18,653----57,584

Republican Registration by County
New Castle-----101,496

Statewide turnout was 31.5%
New Castle County----28.8%

As she heads into the November general election this is the registration disadvantage O'Donnell faces:

County------- Democrats---- Republicans-- Others-------- Total
Kent ------------46,208----- 32,948------ -26,450------ 105,606
New Castle--- -194,504----- 101,496------ 92,301------- 388,301
Sussex ---------52,026------- 48,352------ 27,461------- 127,839
Statewide----- 292,738------ 182,796----- 146,212------- 621,746

I think the balancing act ahead of her is to expand beyond the Tea Party supporters to include at least some more moderates in her coalition, while at the same time not being seen as backing off of the values that initially attracted her primary supporters to her in the first place.

A more daring strategy with more risk might be to not try to expand the coalition as much as energize her base and try to get every possible general election voter that agrees with the values she espoused to win the primary. This strategy assumes a low turnout among the Democrats or a perception that there is a largely untapped number of non-Republican Tea Party adherents who have just been waiting for the primary to be over so they could participate.

Either of these options creates the possibility of alienating either her Tea Party supporters, who have been with her as she stormed the Republican Party, or the moderates who may help her move towards winning an election.

If she plans on building a big Republican tent that is inclusive of those who had previously opposed her,O'Donnell has some work ahead.

While the State GOP website now has a link to her campaign and Party Chair Tom Ross has called for party unity, he did mention by name either O'Donnell or Glen Urquhart, who defeated party supported Michelle Rollins in the US House race in his statement on the website.
An excerpt from a candidate profile in the Ny Times spells out some of her conservative ideals:

"When Ms. O’Donnell ran for the Senate in 2006, she described herself in an interview as, “Republican, but not a Delaware Republican.”

Ms. O’Donnell has taken positions against federal financing for stem cell research, is opposed to abortion even in cases of rape and favors tough penalties against businesses that hire illegal immigrants. She has also suggested in past television interviews that evolution is soft science, and questioned the utility of financing AIDS programs. "

I am wondering where Republicans who consider themselves fiscal conservatives and social moderates will find a place in her campaign.
If she concedes this group (which I would contend is more prevalent in New Castle County based on her defeat in that county in the primary)to Chris Coons in the interest of political purity she may not fare as well in November as she did on primary day.

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