O'Donnell Surges to Lead Over Castle in New Poll

O'Donnell Surges to Lead Over Castle in New Poll

By Scott Conroy - September 13, 2010

Conservative activist Christine O'Donnell holds a 47 percent to 44 percent lead over establishment favorite Rep. Mike Castle in Tuesday's Delaware GOP Senate primary, according to a new Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released on Sunday.

O'Donnell's lead among 668 likely Delaware Republican primary voters was within the poll's margin of error, but if she were able to defeat Castle on Tuesday, it would mark another extraordinary upset for a tea party-backed candidate in a GOP Senate primary.

On Thursday, O'Donnell picked up former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's endorsement, and Palin has recorded a robocall on O'Donnell's behalf. The new PPP poll was conducted after Palin endorsed O'Donnell.

Palin's last-minute push on behalf of Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller proved critical in Miller's shocking victory over incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in last month's Republican primary in Alaska.

Just 35 percent of Delaware Republicans said that they were more likely to vote for someone who had Palin's support, while 24 percent viewed Palin's endorsement as a negative factor, and 41 percent had no opinion.

But among those who saw Palin's support as a positive, O'Donnell led Castle by an enormous margin of 83 percent to 13 percent.

While Palin's endorsement of O'Connell appears to have made an impact on the race, Castle has also suffered from declining popularity among Republican voters.

In an August PPP poll, 60 percent of Republicans viewed Castle favorably and 25 percent viewed him unfavorably. But in the new poll, Castle's favorability plummeted to 43 percent, while 47 percent viewed him unfavorably.

Although O'Donnell held a three-point lead over Castle in the new poll, only 50 percent of likely primary voters said that they thought she was fit for public office.

O'Donnell's advantage over Castle seems to be based largely upon ideology, as 53 percent of voters said that her ideology was about right, while only 37 percent said that Castle, a longtime moderate congressman, was about right ideologically.

PPP said that it would release new general election polling data in Delaware later in the week. The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Chris Coons in November to fill Vice President Biden's old Senate seat.

In hypothetic general election polls conducted over the past month, Coons was trailing Castle but leading O'Donnell.

If O'Donnell defeats Castle on Tuesday, it could signal an opportunity for Democrats to hold onto a Senate seat that they had appeared likely to lose.

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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