The pundits can be wrong, but the commentariat is unanimous that yesterday’s surprising Repub Senate primary result in Delaware was a blow to the party’s already slim hopes of capturing majority control of the Senate this fall.
A couple of weeks ago, Rep. Mike Castle, a moderate Republican and a former governor, was rated as a prohibitive favorite to win not only the Repub nomination for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Joe Biden, but to win the general election as well. The anticipated pickup in Delaware was fairly vital to the Repub chances of the 10-seat gain Repubs need to control the Senate. But the Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell, a creationist who was endorsed by Sarah Palin and other leaders of the right, upset Castle in the primary.
The Democratic nominee Chris Coon, executive of the state’s biggest county, moved overnight from underdog to heavy favorite for November.
Pre-primary polling suggested that if Castle were the nominee, he would start the general election with a 45-35 percent lead over Coon, but that with O’Donnell on the ballot, the Democrat starts with a 50-34 percent lead. Stu Rothenberg immediately shifted the race from Leans Republican to Leans Democratic. Others who rate the Senate races will follow quickly.
Of course, other Tea Party and Palin-backed righties have won primaries this year, upsetting more establishment Republicans who were believed to be more electable. Rand Paul of Kentucky is a prominent case. And Paul is still running ahead in general election polling. Same thing for Palin favorite Joe Miller in Alaska and Mike Lee in Utah. But those are pretty solid red states. Delaware is a solid blue state, and the general view is that Castle was the only Republican who could deliver it.
Republican insiders concede that this damages their hopes of winning the Senate. Most analysts believe the Repubs are now favored to win control of the House. But the Senate was always going to be tougher because the Dems hold a large 40-23 majority of the seats that are not on the ballot this year.