Posted: Oct. 7, 2016


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Republicans can pick their poison. Polling, registration, voting history, it all has a whiff of hemlock.

Kent County is a good place to show what the Republicans are up against. The county in the middle is the most purplish place in Delaware, which is a veritable flowchart of political color.

Kent County is the wash between the dominant Democratic blue upstate in New Castle County, where about 60 percent of the voters live, and the Republican red downstate in the rural reaches of Sussex County.

New Castle County has almost all Democratic legislators. Sussex County has a near-monopoly of Republicans. Kent County is half and half.

New Castle County votes Democratic for president. Sussex votes Republican. Kent splits. With the turning of the century, Kent has gone for the winner, namely, George Bush and the Republicans in 2000 and 2004 but Barack Obama and the Democrats in 2008 and 2012.

Long story short, if things are going bad for the Republicans in Kent County with about a month to go before Election Day 2016, then things are going bad.

Republicans do not have a ghost of chance statewide unless they can marshal the vote in Kent and Sussex to offset New Castle County. It is what elected Ken Simpler as the Republican treasurer and kept Tom Wagner as the Republican auditor in 2014.

"They need to run up big margins downstate," said Paul Brewer, a professor who is the research director for the Center for Political Communication at the University of Delaware.

They are not running up big margins downstate.




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Instead, the Democrats are having their way with Delaware, the same way they keep electing the governor and the senators and the congressperson and controlling the legislature, as a new poll from the University of Delaware shows.

The Democratic candidates -- Hillary Clinton for president, John Carney for governor and Lisa Blunt Rochester for the state's sole congressional seat -- are all polling far ahead of the Republican candidates -- Donald Trump for president, Colin Bonini for governor and Hans Reigle for the congressional seat.

Guess what is causing a lot of damage to the Republican ticket? Kent County.

In the presidential race, Kent County is the weather vane as usual. It is going for Clinton, while New Castle County naturally is sticking with Clinton and Sussex County with Trump.

In the statewide races, all three counties are with Carney and Rochester, but in Kent County, it is even worse than it looks.

Bonini and Reigle are from Kent County, and they still cannot catch a break.

What else could go wrong for the Republicans? Two words. Approval ratings.

Democratic officeholders Office Original statewide win Favorability
Tom Carper senator 1976 64%
Jack Markell governor 1998 62%
John Carney congressman 2000 59%
Chris Coons senator 2010 56%

The statewide electorate appears to be having no second thoughts about its propensity for putting Democrats in high office. As a matter of fact, the longer the Democratic officeholders have been around, the better they are liked by the registered voters who were polled.

Meanwhile, New Castle County is getting harder and harder for the Republicans to crack.

The county is down to a single legislative district that has more Republican than Democratic voters.

There were two of them, one for the state House of Representatives and one for the state Senate, both running along the state's northern arc, but voter registration numbers for October show the 4th Senate, occupied by Greg Lavelle, a Republican state senator, has flipped Democratic. It leaves only the 12th House, held by Debbie Hudson, a Republican state representative.

Just when it seems Delaware could not get more Democratic, it does.