Below is from a blog written by Henry Olsen at the American Enterprise Institute (the original post can be found here). It is a data-driven analysis of Delaware voting.
One of the assumptions that Mr. Olsen makes is that “the personal baggage she carries does not resonate”. This baggage did not resonate in the Republican Primary, and I question whether it will resonate with a majority of voters in the General Election. Why? Let’s take a look:
“She hasn’t had a job since 2007 (or 2005).” — Real unemployment in Delaware is around 17.5% — every one with a job knows that they are potentially out of a job at any time. Being unemployed during a recession/depression doesn’t surprise anyone.
“She sold her house just before foreclosure.” — Thousands of Delawareans are facing foreclosure right now. They would like to save their house, too. I suspect that this is actually a net positive. She saved her house without getting a government bailout.
“She owed money to the IRS.” — The average American fears the IRS more than they fear death. BTW, Timothy Geithner owed a lot more money to the IRS as did Tom Daschle. When did being on the IRS “bad” list become a negative to Democrats?
“Polls show Chris Coons with a double digit lead.” — “Statistical polling” relies on two assumptions: 1) a random sample & 2) accurate responses. I don’t respond to polls (I have caller id) so pollsters make “adjustments” to compensate (aka guesses). In an election cycle like this, I suspect that those who answer polls may be lying in higher numbers than usual. So, the 3.8% margin of error is likely 2-3 times larger given the tumult that we are facing. Remember, Scott Brown was down 20 points with less than a month to go in the Massachusetts special election.
Anyway, Mr. Olsen’s full post is below:
My colleague, Marc Thiessen, has a thought-provoking post arguing that Christine O’Donnell could actually win Delaware based on polling data that shows even liberal Delaware is sympathetic to many core Tea Party arguments. The noted Washington Post political journalist Chris Cillizza has a different view, arguing that Delaware’s prior election history and demographics bode ill for O’Donnell. Who is right?
I’m not as optimistic as Marc, but more recent election and demographic data suggest that Delaware is more ripe for O’Donnell’s picking than Cillizza believes.
His column looks at New Castle County’s dominance of past general elections in the First State. Going back to competitive Senate races in 1994 and 2000, he finds that while New Castle County (home of the state’s largest city, Wilmington, and its suburbs) cast only half the vote in last week’s GOP primary, it casts two-thirds of the vote in general elections. Since New Castle County usually votes for Democrats by hefty margins and Mike Castle, the moderate Republican O’Donnell defeated, won that county solidly, Cillizza hypothesized that O’Donnell is highly unlikely to overcome that disadvantage in November.
Chris’s analysis is sound, but he fails to account for more recent data that shows New Castle County’s share of the electorate is slipping quickly. In 2004, it cast 64 percent of the statewide vote; by 2008 it cast only 62 percent, even though Wilmington is the home to most of Delaware’s African-American population, who voted for President Obama in record proportions. These election data are borne out by Census data which show that New Castle County grew by only 6.9 percent from 2000 to 2009, but the two more conservative counties, Kent and Sussex, grew by 24.5 and 23.1 percent, respectively.
This shift matters because the two southern counties vote much, much more conservatively than does New Castle. In 2004, Kerry carried New Castle with 61 percent, but received only 42 percent in Kent and 39 percent in Sussex. In 2008, President Obama (aided by high African-American turnout) carried New Castle with 70 percent, but received only 54 percent in Kent and 45 percent in Sussex. Note that the county fall off is similar in each election. Kent voted 19 percent less Democratic in ‘04 and 16 percent less Democratic in ‘08 than did New Castle; Sussex was 22 percent less Democratic in ‘04 and 25 percent less Democratic in ‘08.
O’Donnell’s uncompetitive race in 2008 against Vice President Biden exhibited identical patterns. She ran 15 percent better in Kent than in New Castle and 22 percent better in Sussex, nearly carrying that southernmost county.
Most election observers note that, if anything, turnout in 2010 is likely to favor Republicans, as all surveys suggest the GOP’s voters are much likelier to vote than the Democrats’. Throw this together with the recent election and demographic data above and one can see an O’Donnell victory scenario narrowly emerging.
Suppose New Castle County comprises 58 percent of the electorate this year, roughly in line with its long-term trend, with a small adjustment for differential partisan turnout this year. Further suppose that Kent comprises 18 percent (up from 16 in ‘08) and Sussex comprises 24 percent (up from 22 in ‘08). Finally, suppose that Democratic nominee Chris Coons carries 58 percent in New Castle County, 40 percent (18 points less) in Kent, and 34 percent (24 percent less) in Sussex. Those assumptions produce 49 percent of the vote. Assuming the Libertarian does not exceed two percent of the vote, they would give O’Donnell a narrow and shocking victory.
These estimates assume a lot. They especially assume O’Donnell’s campaign is competently run, well financed, and the personal baggage she carries does not resonate with swing voters. But if these things are true, in a year like 2010 is shaping up to be, it is not beyond reason to think Chris Coons will run slightly behind John Kerry’s totals. Combined with Delaware’s changing demographics, this would propel the most unlikely of all the GOP’s nominees to a job representing Delaware’s citizens in the Senate.
Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, I was a Castle supporter and was at his headquarters on Primary night. I believe that he had an easier path to election to the US Senate. Plus I felt that the infrastructure that he had in place would help all Republican down-ticket candidates (the majority of whom are good conservatives). But, I try not to let my own biases grossly affect my interpretation of the data that is out there regarding this election cycle. Christine O’Donnell can win. My hope is that a lot of other Republicans win — the State really needs the help.