The Tea Party Express, a key part of Sharron Angle and Joe Miller's surprise Senate primary victories, is now setting its sights on the candidacy of Christine O'Donnell. She's the challenger to the right of Mike Castle in Delaware. Here are some reasons why- and why not- she might be able to pull off a similar upset.
The arguments for:
-Lisa Murkowski's poll numbers with Republicans back in January are far superior to where Mike Castle's have ever been in our surveys. When we looked at Alaska in January Murkowski's approval within her party was 77/13. By contrast our Delaware poll this month found Castle's favorability with Republicans at only 60/25. It was 61/23 last December so it appears there's a pretty solid quarter of the electorate ready to vote against him from day 1 that didn't exist with Murkowski.
-The ideological composition of the Delaware and Alaska Republican electorates is actually almost identical. Intuitively you would expect Alaska's to be far more conservative but our last Delaware poll found 58% of Republicans identifying as conservatives and 37% as moderates. Our Alaska 'exit poll,' which we'll release tomorrow, found theirs at 59% conservatives and 37% moderates.
The arguments against:
-Mike Castle has been elected statewide in Delaware 13 times. Lisa Murkowski had been once. It's a lot easier to destroy someone's image with 50%+1 of the primary electorate in a very short period of time when they're relatively new to the scene than it is when they've been in statewide office for 30 years like Castle has.
-Time and money. We haven't seen any public polling out of Delaware on the primary but it seems pretty safe to say Castle's still up by a good amount and with only two weeks to go there's not a lot of time to make that up. And it will probably take a much bigger investment to put a huge dent into Castle when that involves buying up Philadelphia tv time than it did in Alaska where a little money goes a long way.
-The lack of a Sarah Palin endorsement for O'Donnell. Our Alaska 'exit poll' actually found that Palin wasn't as big a factor in Miller's win as she seems to be getting credit for but there's no doubt that would be a big help with at least some portion of the Republican electorate.
I would be surprised to see Castle have much trouble in a couple weeks but we're going to think about polling both Delaware and New Hampshire the weekend before their respective primaries because if there's any lesson we're learning in this odd election year it's not to assume anything.