There were three major surprises in the sometimes nasty Republican Senate primary results last night. The first is the most obvious, Christine O’Donnell pulled off a stunning upset over nine-term Congress Mike Castle.
There are those who say that despite Castle’s positions Republicans should have voted for him anyway because he was a “lock” to win the general election.Others say that especially in the primary, O’Donnell was the way to go, because the primary is the time to vote based on ideology. Both are valid arguments, but the overriding factor is that primaries are the time for ideology, party leaders would tell you that after the primary season we are supposed to unite behind the party’s candidates and get that person elected. Heck, that’s exactly what we were told to do when John McCain was nominated for as the party’s candidate for President. For conservatives McCain was a bitter pill to swallow because many of his positions were similar to Barack Obama’s, without the pizzaz.
Unite behind the candidate is the rule, except in the case of Christine O’Donnell, because while she was making her victory speech, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) made what can only be described as a divisive, juvenile , and frankly stupid announcement, that O’Donnell could not win so they were not going to lend her any support. It is the equivalent of a seven-year-old picking up the ball and going home.
Thankfully the NRSC reversed themselves this morning, maybe the felt the grass roots anger after last night’s angry statement. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn put out a statement of support for Christine O’Donnell
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Let there be no mistake: The National Republican Senatorial Committee – and I personally as the committee’s chairman – strongly stand by all of our Republican nominees, including Christine O’Donnell in Delaware.
I reached out to Christine this morning, and as I have conveyed to all of our nominees, I offered her my personal congratulations and let her know that she has our support. This support includes a check for $42,000 – the maximum allowable donation that we have provided to all of our nominees – which the NRSC will send to her campaign today.
The NRSC was obviously looking at polls showing Castle leading the Democratic nominee Coons in November but O’Donnell trailing. They were hoping to pick up the ten seats they needed for the GOP to win control of the Senate, and felt the O’Donnell victory destroyed that chance. The GOP leadership was upset by the O’Donnell victory and even though they reversed themselves, they still have to make up for the bad will created by their political tantrum.
Republican leadership has not exactly had their fingers on the pulse of the people when it comes to Senate candidates. The NRSC came out and endorsed Charlie Crist for the Florida Senate nomination as soon as he announced he was running, branding eventual nominee Marco Rubio as too conservative for Florida. The GOP also said nice things about Arlen Specter, and branded Pat Toomy as extremist. and had similar feelings about Ken Buck, Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, and Joe Miller. With the exception of Sharron Angle who is in a dead heat with Senate majority leader Harry Reid, all of those candidates the Republican leadership once said could never win, are ahead in the general election polls.
The most recent Delaware polls (September 2nd) show Democrat Chris Coons has with an eleven point lead in over O’ Donnell. A month and a half ago O’Donnell had a two point lead. The negative campaigning by Castle pushed O’Donnell’s favorables down and moved Coons into the lead. Keep in mind that the same poll gave Castle had an eleven point lead over O’Donnell.
The National GOP’s logic about their new nominee is flawed. Yes she is at a disadvantage, and yes it will be difficult, but Coons does not have an insurmountable lead. Remember there was a seventeen point swing between O’Donnell and Castle in the six and a half weeks between July 15 and Sept. 2. and an eleven point swing between Coons and O’ Donnell during the same time period.
Did the O’Donnell victory ruin the Republican chances to win the Senate? No, no, no and no.
No, because, the head to head general election campaign has not started yet. Coons is a relatively unknown, that is good for the Democrats because he has a relatively clean slate, for the same reason it is good for the GOP because if O’Donnell wages an intelligent campaign she could fill in Coons’ slate.
No, because Castle was not guaranteed a victory over Coons. If a poorly funded O’Donnell campaign could generate a seventeen point swing against Castle in forty-seven days, just imagine what a well funded Coons could do in the same period. Castle was an example of “same old, same old” in a year when voters want to throw all of “the bums” out of office. Chances are he would have had a very hard time winning in the general election.
No, because two races earlier thought to slam dunks for the Democrats, Connecticut and West Virginia are now competitive.
And no, because because all pundits and political hacks thought that the chances of the Republicans re-taking the Senate were a long shot at best. You can’t lose what you don’t have.
Christine O’Donnell’s surprising win last night did not cause the GOP their chance at winning the Senate, unless of course the Republican leadership continues its “hissy fit” over Mike Castle’s loss and doesn’t follow through with its new-found friendship.
Yesterday in his National Journal column, prognosticator Charlie Cook said:
….. unless a large number of Republican officeholders and candidates begin taking stupid pills every morning, the odds of Republicans picking up more than the 39 seats needed to win a majority in the House is very high, and in the Senate, a net gain of between eight and 10 seats looks probable.
Last night it was the Republican Party leadership, not the GOP voters in Delaware that took some “stupid pills.” Today they heard the voice of the people and returned to the fold. Now they must throw those pills away permanently and remember Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.