The U.S. Senate debate between Republican Christine O’Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons drew mixed reviews from members of the crowd and political pundits who declined to name a clear winner in the high-profile, televised event.


The U.S. Senate debate between Republican Christine O’Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons drew mixed reviews from members of the crowd and political pundits who declined to name a clear winner in the high-profile, televised event.

UD junior Hannah Niedel, 20, of Glocester, R.I., thought that Coons was far more prepared than O’Donnell. The international relations major is a registered Democrat.

“He came off sounding more educated than she did,” Niedel said. “The fact she couldn’t name any recent Supreme Court cases that she disagrees with was very embarrassing for her. Any Senate candidate should be able to do that.”

Moderater Nancy Karibjanian asked O’Donnell to name a recent U.S. Supreme Court case she objected to and O’Donnell could not think of one, pledging to put something up on her website soon.

UD junior Matt Coogan, 19, of Wilmington, thought both candidates came off largely composed, with a grasp of the issues. But he wanted to see more of a substantive difference between the two.

“In terms of packaging, I think Christine came off a little bit better,” he said. “Chris seemed very petty, very whiny a lot of the time when he said he couldn’t respond to her accusations.”

UD senior Michael O’Donovan, 21, of New York, was not overly impressed with either candidate. He felt O’Donnell was “a little too far out there” and “Coons “was too focused on criticizing.”

“One thing I did like with O’Donnell was her view on don’t ask, don’t tell,” he said. “It should be what the military decides. I like how Chris Coons said he’d be a bulldog and not Harry Reid’s pet.”

UD Associate Professor of Political Science Jason D. Mycoff said he struck by the amount of negativity in the debate, with both candidates willing to go after each other more than he expected.

As for how they fared in the debate, Mycoff said the real winner was the voter, who got to hear where the candidates stand on specific issues.

UD Assistant Professor of Political Science David C. Wilson said O’Donnell, who entered the debate down by double-digits in the polls, did not do enough to move to the center in an attempt to overcome Coons’ lead in the polls, he said.

“She is behind in every major demographic among voters – age, income, education, race,”  Wilson said. “She’s winning among conservatives and Republicans. But she’s losing among moderates and liberals. So, she’s got a little bit of a climb in terms of reaching voters in a short amount of time.  I don’t think the needle is going to move.”

The new University of Delaware Center for Political Communication poll, conducted by phone during the hours following the debate, reached 891 of the same likely voters polled just before the debate, to determine if any views were changed by the nationally-televised discussion.  Regardless of who the voters plan to vote for, 56 percent said Coons won the debate and 29 percent said O’Donnell won the debate in figures released Friday. Only 2 percent of the viewers said they changed their mind after the debate.

The post-debate poll is overseen by Wilson, a public opinion specialist who serves as the Center for Political Communication Coordinator of Public Opinion Initiatives.

“In a largely Democratic state, O’Donnell needs all the Republican support she can get," Wilson said. "But the numbers are not in her favor.”