Underdog Christine O’Donnell upset 42 year incumbent Rep. Mike Castle in the Delaware Republican Senate primary tonight,giving the tea party movement a major victory and, according to the professional hand-wringers, giving Democrats an unexpected chance to hold the First State seat.
O’Donnell, making her third run for the Senate in as many elections, received support from several national figures, from the Tea Party Express to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, providing a much welcome boost to a shoestring campaign against the seemingly unbeatable Castle.
O’Donnell proclaimed in her victory speech:
The people of Delaware have spoken. No more politics as usual.
The O’Donnell victory, considered an extreme long shot as recently as a month ago, is seen by the so-called pundits, professional and otherwise, as a major boost for Democratic hopes of holding the seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden. New Castle County Executive Chris Coons was unchallenged for the Democratic Senate nomination.
Prominent Republican strategist Mike Murphy said:
I’m sad to say the Delaware primary results tonight are straight out of Harry Reid’s dream journal.
Well, Mike, if Castle had opposed the Porkulus Bill and Cap and Trade, he might not have been a loser.
While the Delaware race received the most national attention last night, it was far from the only one being contested as seven states and the District of Columbia voted in the final major primaries of the 2010 election.
In New Hampshire, former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte held a narrow lead over attorney Ovide Lamontagne in the battle for the Republican Senate nomination. The winner will take on Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in the race to replace retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R).
In New York, in a district where they evidently like graft and corruption, Rep. Charlie Rangel crushed his competition in a crowded Democratic primary field in the 15th district while Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) cruised in a primary challenge from businesswoman Reshma Saujani in the 14th.
Also in New York, tea party favorite Carl Paladino crushed former Rep. Rick Lazio in the fight for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Paladino will be a major underdog this fall against state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is heavily favored in the fall.
I see a pattern forming here.
But, there is little doubt that O’Donnell’s victory is what will dominate the news today.
Scared by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski‘s (R) primary defeat late last month, Castle decided to go extremely negative against O’Donnell in hopes of using his financial advantage to define her in the eyes of likely voters.
However, that effort was evidently too little, too late for Castle whose political career, which began when he was elected to the Delaware state House in 1966, ends in a shocking defeat.
According to Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman and GOP lobbyist:
This shows that conservative energy at the grassroots is at tidal wave levels. It may well cost us the Delaware Senate seat, but the same phenomenon will help Republicans, particularly in House races in November.
State and national Republicans have attacked O’Donnell’s personal finances and public misstatements in order to further Castle’s campaign meme that she is close to unelectable.
National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Rob Jesmer wrote the following in a less-than-pleased statement released after the race was called:
We congratulate Christine O’Donnell for her nomination this evening after a hard-fought primary campaign in Delaware.
According to all the pundits, the Delaware result is also a major blow to Republicans’ hopes of winning back the Senate majority this fall. To do so, the GOP needs a net gain of 10 seats, which, with Delaware now supposedly going to the Democrats, would mean that Republicans need to close to a clean sweep in states like California, Wisconsin and Washington.
The O’Donnell situation reminds me of another true story: The legendary Groucho Marz and his family were invited to a ritzy country club. They were at poolside and Groucho was about to go swimming in the pool. The manager of the snooty country club came up to him and said:
I’m sorry, sir. Jews are not allowed to swim in our pool.
Groucho replied, without batting an eye:
Well, since my daughter’s only half-Jewish, can she go wading up to her waist?
The last few days, I’ve watched in fascination and horror as Conservative posters re-enacted the Civil War on Conservative websites over a Delaware Primary Election. What they seemingly forgot, was that Tea Party Movement is not tied to a single political party. It was formed by people wanting less taxes and less government intrusion of their lives. Since the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag has been adopted by the movement, it seems appropriate that all these winds of change were felt last night in 3 of the original 13 colonies.
There will definitely be a lot of hand-wringing seen today from amateur political strategists. The truth of the matter is, if these politicians had held to Conservative principles, they would not have lost. Unfortunately for the career politicians and political pundits, last night, for the voters, principles mattered more than strategy.