Cook, Rothenberg Shift Delaware Race from Republicans to Democrats

After Delaware Tea Partier Christine O'Donnell supplanted Rep. Mike Castle in yesterday's GOP Senate primary, the two gold standard election prognosticators have shifted the race from Republicans to Democrats.

The Rothenberg Political Report last night moved the race from "lean Republican" to "lean Democrat," noting that while Castle had "broad appeal," O'Donnell's pull is "limited to tea party conservatives":

Lacking an impressive resume and unlikely to garner significant national Republican support, O'Donnell clearly looks like an underdog against New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D), who is suddenly transformed to the favorite in the general election.
While tea party activists are jumping for joy at the primary results, it's Democrats who will have the last laugh in Delaware.

Meanwhile, Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report (subscription-only) has labeled the Delaware race "likely Democratic":

...The reality is that Delaware is a Democratic-leaning state where Democrats have a 17-point advantage over Republicans in voter registration. Democrats also have a strong candidate in New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, who saw his fortunes turn 180 degrees over the course of a few hours last night.

With Delaware off the board for the GOP, the possibility that they can net the 10 seats needed to win the majority becomes significantly harder. While it is still mathematically possible, winning Delaware was an important part of the equation.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reached a similar conclusion, moving Delaware from "Lean Republican" to "Lean Democratic."

A Public Policy Polling survey conducted on September 11th and 12th found that Democratic candidate Chris Coons leads O'Donnell 50-34. By contrast, the survey found that Castle would have led Coons 45-35. Only 31 percent of respondents thought O'Donnell was fit to hold office, and a full 49 percent thought she was unfit to do so. The survey found that Coons was still largely undefined, with 36 percent of respondents not knowing enough about him to have formed an opinion.

One element that could work in O'Donnell's favor is that the National Republican Senatorial Committee clarified its tune on her this morning, after issuing a terse statement on the Delaware results last night. NRSC Chairman John Cornyn has issued a new statement declaring support for O'Donnell's candidacy and announcing that the committee is sending her a $42,000 check.

Both Cook's and Rothenberg's re-evaluations of the race factored in a lack of national Republican support, so it will be interesting to see a) whether the NRSC follows through and remains committed to O'Donnell, and b) whether this development will affect future ratings of the race.


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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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