A by-the-numbers look at Christine O’Donnell’s coming uphill battle in Delaware Senate race

Jon Ward Contributor

The debate over whether Republican Christine O’Donnell can win Delaware’s Senate race has raged since the Tea Party candidate became the Republican nominee on Tuesday night.

Two sets of numbers are worth considering in assessing her chances at success in November.

The first is how many votes O’Donnell received, compared to how many votes were cast for Sen. Tom Carper, the Democrat who holds the other Senate seat, in the last off-year election, 2006.

O’Donnell on Tuesday received 30,561 votes. Carper, in 2006, won reelection to a second term with 170,567 votes. That’s a significant difference.

The other set of numbers that gives some balance to the first is the overall state registration.

Democrats are the clear majority, with 292,738 on the state voters rolls as of September 1. Republicans have 182,796 registered voters.

But there are also 146,212 voters not registered with either party. That is where O’Donnell’s chances lie. If there are enough disgruntled voters in that large group of independents, then she could see victory.

Rep. Ron Paul, the Republican congressman from Texas, said much of the Tea Party movement is drawn from nonaffiliated voters.

“The Tea Party people are added on to the Republicans, because a lot of them haven’t been involved before, they’re independents,” Paul said on CNN. “If you have a Republican base the Tea Party people add on to it. That’s why she has a very good chance.”

Paul admitted that O’Donnell has “the roughest job of all the Tea Party candidates, because she’s in a more liberal state.”

The latest poll out on Thursday, from Rasmussen Reports, showed O’Donnell trailing Democrat Chris Coons by 11 points.

Republican strategist Karl Rove, who has been an outspoken conservative to be critical of O’Donnell, on Thursday tweeted that the GOP could still win the Senate even if they don’t win Delaware.

“New Senate map: GOP could still win control of the Senate if they win all remaining toss-up races,” Rove said, linking to this map.

Some other numbers to round out the picture in Delaware. Rep. Mike Castle got 27,021 votes in comparison to O’Donnell’s 30,561. So 57,582 Republicans cast votes in the race, which was about 32 percent turnout for the GOP.

By contrast, only 12 percent of Democrats showed up at the polls. But that was in part because the highest profile race in the party was for state treasurer, where 34,721 Democrats cast ballots.

In the 2006 primary, Republicans had only 8 percent turnout, compared to the 32 percent this week (Democrats had 7 percent turnout that year). O’Donnell came in third in the primary, with 2,505 votes. Jan Ting won with 6,110 votes in the primary, and lost to Carper in the general, where he received 69,734 votes.

E-mail Jon Ward and follow him on Twitter