Christine O'Donnell: Is her latest campaign push working?

Christine O'Donnell, Delaware's Republican Senate nominee, has rolled out a tough message with a soft facade in her new campaign ad.

Christine4Senate YouTube screengrab
Christine O'Donnell's second campaign ad has the same simple setting as her first, but carries a tougher message.

Christine O’Donnell this week has fired up her campaign, which seemed to go on a bit of a hiatus in the weeks following her surprise victory in Delaware’s GOP Senate primary. She’s shot and released several new slick TV ads, and made the rounds of local media for interviews.

On the one hand, she seems to be trying to regain control of her image, and soften and humanize herself enough to appeal to crossover Democrats and independent voters. Thus her first ad, released early this week, begins with her saying simply, “I'm not witch.” (She’s admitted to youthful experimentation with the dark arts, just in case you’ve been in total news withdrawal for a month and haven’t heard.)

And her second ad, released Thursday, begins, “I didn’t go to Yale.” (Her opponent, New Castle County executive Chris Coons, did. Yale Law School, anyway.)

Both O’Donnell spots are quiet and simple, just her talking against a well-lit background, and end with her new catchphrase, “I’m you.”

But the First State’s GOP Senate hopeful can’t get too soft if she is to keep hold of the insurgent voters who powered her to her surprise toppling of the favorite, Rep. Mike Castle, in the primary. So she’s trying to maintain a tough underlying message with her new I’m-just-a-normal-non-witch-Delawarean approach.

You can see this in the second ad, where she says, while smiling and nodding her head, that “when some tried to push me from this race, they saw what I was made of, and so will the Senate if they try to increase our taxes one more dime.”

So that’s probably her strategy – pivot to the center, while trying to take all those "tea party" supporters with her. Will it work?

Well, let’s just say she’s got a long way to go. The newest polls show her far behind. A Fairleigh Dickinson University survey released October 6 shows Coons in front 53 percent to 36 percent.

Interestingly, this poll found Democrats far more united behind Coons than Republicans are united behind O’Donnell. Eighty-five percent of Dems said they were going to vote for their party nominee. The corresponding figure for the GOP was 68 percent.

“Typically, Republicans are more loyal to their party than Democrats. This hesitation by Republicans is hurting O’Donnell,” said Dan Cassino, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson in a statement issued with the poll.

Yet fully two-thirds of registered voters in Delaware are Democrats, so O’Donnell can’t win just by appealing to Republicans. That may be why she’s trying a speak-softly-but-carry-a-hard-message approach.

Another recent poll, this one by the University of Delaware, puts the Coons-O’Donnell split at 49 percent for the Democrat to 30 percent for the Republican.

Yet 13 percent of voters remain undecided, according to the U of D survey. The challenge for O’Donnell will be “to attract moderate and conservative Democratic and independent voters by moving to the ideological center while holding ... base supporters who tend to be strongly conservative,” according to a U of D Center for Political Communications analysis released with the survey.

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