(CNN) - Hours before they meet in their first debate, a new poll indicates that Democrat Chris Coons holds a large lead over Republican Christine O'Donnell in the Senate battle in Delaware, a race that has captured national attention.
Full results (pdf)
According to a CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday, 57 percent of likely voters in Delaware support Coons, the executive of New Castle County, with 38 percent backing O'Donnell, who scored a major upset last month when she defeated Rep. Mike Castle to win Delaware's GOP Senate nomination.
Thanks to support from the Tea Party Express and a major endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as well as the strong anti-establishment and anti-incumbent feelings among voters this year, O'Donnell topped Castle, a moderate Republican who served nine terms in the House as the state's sole congressman.
According to the poll, Coons' 19 point lead among likely voters is up from a 16 point lead in mid September. Among the larger sampling of registered voters, Coon's holds a 29 point lead, up from a 25 point advantage last month.
The survey indicates that Coons has the support of more than nine in ten Democrats, holds a 16 point advantage among independent voters, and has the backing of 17 percent of Republicans, with O'Donnell grabbing three out of four Republican voters.
"Coons is winning among independents despite the fact that a quarter of them are Tea Party supporters," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Take the independents who back the Tea Party out of the equation and Coons wins 71 percent among non-partisan independents, as well as 68 percent among moderates."
The Wednesday evening debate will be co-moderated by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, anchor of the Situation Room, and by longtime Delaware news anchor Nancy Karibjanian of Delaware First Media, and will be held at the University of Delaware in Newark, in New Castle County.
"Coons is winning in the northern part of the state, which is his home turf, by a two-to-one margin. O'Donnell has a seven-point lead in the two downstate counties, which tend to vote Republican," Holland notes. "Delaware is a very suburban state, and Coons has a wide lead in the suburbs, although O'Donnell draws some strength in the suburbs that were built in the 1980s and 1990s south of Wilmington and around Dover and were the key to her victory over Castle."
Since her primary victory, the constant unearthing of controversial and colorful comments O'Donnell made around a decade ago on cable television when she was a spokesperson for conservative causes, have kept her in the national spotlight. The "I am not a witch" declaration in her first campaign ad of the general election is a response to comments she made years ago on the program "Politically Incorrect" that she "dabbled in witchcraft." Bill Maher, the host of that program, is now highlighting those old clips in his weekly HBO program "Real Time."
In O'Donnell's first two commercial's she's also said "I am you." But the poll indicates that likely voters, by a 54 to 34 percent margin, say that Coons "better understands the needs and problems of people like you."
The winner in November will fill out the remaining four years of Vice President Joe Biden's final term in the Senate. Biden stepped down from his seat after his election in November 2008 as vice president. Former Biden aide Ted Kaufman was named as an interim replacement, and is not seeking a full term. After much speculation that he would run for his father's old seat, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden announced in late January that he would instead run for re-election as Delaware attorney general. Coon's announced days later and faced no serious opposition for the Democratic Party's nomination.
According to the survey, 47 percent of likely voters approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing in the White House, with an equal among saying they disapprove. Among all adults, Obama's approval rating rises to 57 percent with his disapproval dropping to 37 percent.
The CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted October 8-12, with 1,510 adults, including 1,363 registered voters and 834 likely voters questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for likely voters.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
Get the latest poll results here.