The first survey conducted by Fox in Delaware after the primary election tells the story people more or less already knew.  In a poll of 1,000 likely Delaware voters, Christine O’Donnell trails Chris Coons by 15 points, 54/39.  Had the GOP nominated Mike Castle, he would have led Coons by 15, 48/33.  It’s a very close resemblance to the Rasmussen poll that showed an 11-point gap in both directions between the three candidates just before the primary.

While there are six weeks to go before the general election, the prospect of movement does not look good from the internals.  Thirteen percent of O’Donnell’s voters are not certain about their support, as opposed to only 8% of Coons voters.  That seems to indicate a rather firm situation in polling.  Also, 60% believe that O’Donnell is not qualified to be a Senator, while only 27% said the same about Coons.

There are some bright spots.  Barack Obama’s approval rating is upside down in Delaware, 45/46, which seems more than a little surprising considering that his running mate once held this very seat, and was re-elected to it at the same time he won the VP race.  A majority of Delaware’s likely voters want smaller government and fewer services, with an 18-point gap between those who want bigger government and more services (53/35).  Sixty percent feel dissatisfied and/or angry about the way the federal government is working.  Those numbers give a strong indication of an anti-establishment impulse in the Delaware electorate.

The strategy here is clear.  O’Donnell has to demonstrate that she can be trusted with public office and identify Coons as an agent of big, bloated, unresponsive government that will hand Barack Obama and Congress a rubber stamp on spending and expansion.  If she can do that, especially on the issue of competence, O’Donnell can make a dent in that large polling lead Coons enjoys now.

One last note: Plenty of people say that this proves that Delaware Republicans should have nominated Castle over O’Donnell.  That’s certainly a reasonable analysis, but consider how that would have played out.  If Castle continued his support for cap-and-trade, the DISCLOSE Act, and other big-government policies for the next four years, would the GOP establishment worked to kick him out of that seat — or doubled down on supporting him?  In the long run, it might be easier to run against Coons in 2014 (when the seat comes up for normal election) with a better-prepared Republican challenger than to dislodge Castle in another primary fight.

Update: 54/39, not 54/36. Had to correct my correction.