Republican Christine O’Donnell is proving to be the notable exception to an otherwise stellar campaign season for GOP Senate candidates running in Democratic-leaning states, as a new independent poll of likely Delaware voters shows her behind Democrat Chris Coons by 19 points.
According to a Monmouth University poll conducted Friday through Monday, Coons, the New Castle County executive, led O’Donnell 57 percent to 38 percent. It gets worse for O’Donnell: Only 35 percent of those surveyed believe she is qualified to serve in the Senate, while 64 percent believe that Coons is qualified. The automated poll surveyed 790 likely voters, and had an error margin of 3.5 points.
Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said O’Donnell is dragging down other Delaware Republicans on the Nov. 2 ballot. Also according to the poll, Democrat John Carney led Republican Glen Urquhart 53 percent to 44 percent in the battle for Rep. Mike Castle’s (R) open House seat. Castle was defeated by O’Donnell in the GOP Senate primary.
“What looked like a probable Senate pick-up for Republicans has quickly slipped from their grasp,” Murray said in a memo included with the poll. “In fact, with Mike Castle off the ballot for the first time in years, Delaware may provide one of the only opportunities for Democrats to flip a House seat this year.”
O’Donnell registers poorly although the Monmouth University poll found more support for a Republican-controlled Congress (45 percent) than one that is run by Democrats (41 percent). President Barack Obama’s job approval rating registered at 44 percent, with 50 percent disapproving.
O’Donnell’s campaign experienced a fundraising windfall after her upset of Castle in the primary, but she has only recently hit TV airwaves with her first commercials. The new poll showed her problems with the electorate are many and not just segregated to New Castle County, the northernmost of Delaware’s three counties that is home to Wilmington and is a Democratic stronghold.
The Monmouth University poll revealed that O’Donnell had a minuscule 47 percent to 46 percent lead over Coons in the more conservative southern counties of Kent and Sussex, where voters are most open to a conservative message and where her margin of victory must be significant on Election Day if she is to be competitive. In New Castle County, Coons led O’Donnell 63 percent to 33 percent.
Additionally, the poll showed O’Donnell receiving only 67 percent of the GOP vote, with 26 percent supporting Coons — a clear sign that the Republican nominee has yet to successfully court voters who supported Castle in the primary. Coons also led among independents, 51 percent to 41 percent. Coons received 91 percent of the Democratic vote.
Coons led by roughly 20 points each among all age demographics and by 41 points — 68 percent to 27 percent — among women. Only among male voters did O’Donnell hold a small advantage: 48 percent to 46 percent. The poll’s demographic breakdown was 51 percent male, 49 percent female, 34 percent self-identified Democrat, 32 percent self-identified Republican, and 34 percent self-identified independent.
In terms of personal favorability, Coons led again. Delaware voters gave the liberal county executive a 50 percent favorability rating, compared with 33 percent unfavorable. Only 31 percent of the likely electorate viewed O’Donnell favorably — 58 percent saw her in an unfavorable light.
Tea party activists, who have heavily supported O’Donnell, could be weighing her down in the First State. The poll showed that the tea party is viewed negatively, with 36 percent giving the conservative activist movement favorable marks, and 57 percent viewing it unfavorably. Those numbers are nearly identical to how O’Donnell performed against Coons in the ballot test.
Meanwhile, the two House candidates are less well-known than O’Donnell and Coons, with 39 percent saying they have no opinion on either Carney or Urquhart.
But the Democrat still held higher favorable ratings than the Republican. Carney’s favorable rating was 49 percent, with 24 percent viewing him unfavorably, while Urquhart registered a 36 percent favorable rating, with 25 percent viewing him unfavorably.