I’m surprised. Not only because it’s insane to think he’s still the favorite — closed primary, polls showing O’Donnell surging, nationally prominent conservatives in full-court press on her behalf — but because it’s poor messaging. If Castle’s chances for victory hinge on centrist Republicans turning out en masse, wouldn’t the GOP want to scare the hell out of those people with predictions of a nailbiter in order to make sure they know their vote’s important? Mystifying.

Republican National Committeewoman Priscilla Rakestraw, who has been working the phones on Castle’s behalf, and who spoke to 300 potential voters at the Academy of Life-Long Learning Thursday, said she believed O’Donnell’s momentum has sputtered over the past few days due to the heightened scrutiny surrounding her record.

“The phones this afternoon and tonight, were totally different. People were much more willing to talk and much more forthcoming. Democrats were even asking how they could help, and I told them to call their Republican friends,” Rakestraw said late Monday, predicting an 8-point victory for Castle. “The mood seems different.”…

[GOP operative Don Mell] projected that if turnout draws 30 percent of the state’s 180,000 registered Republicans, the former two-term governor and nine-term congressman would win by 8 to 12 percentage points. If turnout just breaks 20 percent, he believes Castle’s margin will shrink to 4 to 6 points, but said he would survive.

Ace says O’Donnell by six; I agree, and wouldn’t be surprised to see it slightly higher. Beyond that, though, we’ve got a bloggy dilemma here: It’s the only thing anyone wants to talk about, and yet after a week of intraparty bloodshed, there’s … really nothing left to say. Want to read about the phony meme that Castle tried to get Bush impeached? Mary Katharine Ham’s got you covered. Curious as to whether Castle’s as much of a RINO as people say? Jay Cost looks at his record. Long story short: He’s awfully squishy, but nothing out of the ordinary for northeastern Republicans. (In fact, he’s more conservative than Democrat Walt Minnick, who was initially endorsed by — ta da — the Tea Party Express.) Plenty of comment fodder to be had in those two links!

Actually, in the spirit of healing, I’ll offer you an argument for voting O’Donnell: Like Geraghty says, things may now be so toxic between her and Castle’s supporters that neither one of them is electable anymore. In that case, why not vote for the “true conservative”? I don’t quite buy it, just because Castle will still stand a chance against Coons even if he’s no longer the favorite. But assuming he crashes and burns tonight and Coons ends up with the big lead over O’Donnell that most everyone expects, it may be a blessing in disguise. Imagine if Castle beats O’Donnell but then loses a heartbreaker to Coons because O’Donnell supporters stay home; not only will the GOP have squandered a seat, they’ll have also squandered untold millions in advertising dollars spent trying to win in Delaware. If instead O’Donnell beats Castle and then falls way behind Coons, the NRSC will cut its losses early and spent that money instead on, say, Sharron Angle, who’s in a dead heat with Dingy Harry in Nevada. In other words, at this point a Castle win tonight could mean losing Delaware and Nevada whereas a Castle loss could leave the GOP one for two. (Of course, a Castle win could eventually also leave the GOP two for two.) That’s the best I can do at the moment to come up with positive spin.

O’Donnell herself is, of course, insisting that she can beat Coons in November. Fair enough; there’s always a chance. A Coons scandal could break or Pelosi could demand another $800 billion stimulus or Obama could join Michael Moore in calling for the Ground Zero mosque to be built, er, at Ground Zero. Short of that, virtually everything is against her: In addition to disgruntled Castle supporters staying home, the demographic realities of Delaware are simply gruesome for conservative Republicans. It’s true that Obama’s approval rating has plunged there just as it has everywhere else in America, but of course it won’t be The One who campaigns for Coons. It’ll be hometown-boy-made-good Joe Biden and his vet son Beau. Marc Ambinder also reported this morning that Dems are prepared to spend “several million dollars” to elect Coons now that the GOP has handed them a gift. O’Donnell supporters will naturally take that as evidence that the left is worried — “Aha! Why are they spending money if it’s a cakewalk?” — but Democrats are just being prudent. If Crist dropped out of the Florida race tomorrow, Rubio would be a prohibitive favorite over Meek, yet does anyone think Rubio would/should stop running ads in that case? No need to take chances with what should be an easy victory.

The prospect of losing a winnable seat is painful enough that I’ll be moving briskly into the “denial” phase of grief starting tomorrow morning. For your viewing pleasure, this will be my response henceforth to anyone claiming O’Donnell is a longshot.