The first race in Delaware, where Christine O’Donnell, a political activist and commentator, is running against Michael N. Castle, who has held elected office in Delaware for 30 years as its governor, lieutenant governor and lone United States representative. The contest originally appeared to be a mismatch. Republican strategists were thrilled to have a well-known and manifestly electable candidate like Mr. Castle, who announced his interest in running for the Senate last October. Ms. O’Donnell, meanwhile, was far from a fresh face, having been the Republican nominee for Senate in 2008, when she was badly defeated by Joseph R. Biden Jr., now, of course, the vice president. Ms. O’Donnell was also on the ballot for the Republican Senate primary in 2006, finishing in third place with barely more than 2,500 votes.
But then a strange thing happened. Joe Miller, who had the backing of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, upended the incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the Republican Senate primary in Alaska. Although the outcome arguably should not have been such a surprise – a dearth of polling concealed whatever momentum Mr. Miller might have been gaining – it emboldened Tea Party activists and some other conservatives, who were reminded that in this topsy-turvy electoral cycle, few incumbents and establishment politicians are safe. Mr. Castle — a moderate who is unambiguously a member of the establishment – was next on their target list. And so Ms. O’Donnell, who already had the support of the Tea Party, last week received endorsements from Republican thought-leaders like Ms. Palin, the National Rifle Association and Senator James DeMint of South Carolina.
In contrast to Alaska, however, where Mr. Miller is the favorite to be elected unless Ms. Murkowski finds her way onto the ballot as a Libertarian or write-in candidate, Delaware is a blue state, and the electoral prospects of Mr. Castle and Ms. O’Donnell there are wildly divergent. Whereas Mr. Castle is nearly a 95 percent favorite against the Democratic nominee, Chris Coons, according to last week’s FiveThirtyEight forecasting model, Ms. O’Donnell would have just a 17 percent chance of winning a race against Mr. Coons.
Sorry, a 95 percent chance with Mike Castle. Whoops.