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Christine O'Donnell's two of three counties flub

As pointed out this morning on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown, Christine O'Donnell, who is challenging Rep. Mike Castle for the Delaware GOP Senate nomination, recently landed in hot water for saying she had won two (of three) counties in 2008 against Joe Biden.

She did not.

She then backtracked on a radio program and said she meant she tied. She did not do that either. She lost Kent County 57%-43% and came extraordinarily close in Sussex County, the Southernmost county, losing by just 272 votes.

But even if she had won two of three counties, could a candidate still win? The short answer to that question is yes, particularly a Democratic candidate. In fact, it was done in the 2004 presidential election when John Kerry won Delaware but lost both Kent and Sussex to former President George W. Bush.

Why is this possible? Aside from the obvious -- that a candidate could win by one vote, say, in both counties and the other could win by three in the other -- there's a practical reality. Just 885,000 people live in Delaware, according to 2009 Census estimates. Sixty percent of them (about 535,000) live in New Castle County, the most Northern County in the state and which is heavily Democratic. New Castle, which is largely a Philadelphia suburb, is the one you drive through on I-95. It includes Wilmington, which is heavily African-American, as well as Newark, where the University of Delaware is (from where this First Read writer got his undergrad degree). President Obama won New Castle 70%-29%; Biden won it 72%-28%.

Kent and Sussex, which are just below the Mason-Dixon line, lean more Republican than New Castle. President Obama won Kent, which includes Dover Air Force Base and Dover Downs NASCAR raceway, with less than 55% of the vote and lost Sussex, the Southernmost county, 54%-45%.