Delaware GOP Primary In The Tea Party’s Crosshairs

Delaware's September 14th Republican Senate Primary is shaping up to be the next battle between the Establishment GOP and the Tea Party movement.

While the ballot count remains incomplete in Alaska, the nation’s largest Tea Party group has set it’s sights on another establishment GOP Senate candidate:

The Tea Party Express, which spent some $600,000 on Alaska Republican Joe Miller’s primary challenge to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), says it’s preparing to do the same on behalf of Christine O’Donnell (R) in Delaware.

O’Donnell is challenging Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) from the right in the state’s Sept. 14 Senate primary, but she has yet to capture the same kind of attention from conservative activists as other Tea Party-backed candidates have this cycle.

Tea Party Express spokesman Levi Russell said Monday that his organization is already cutting TV and radio ads in Delaware and expects to be on the air by the end of the week. Russell said he hopes to match the support the group offered in GOP primaries in Utah, Nevada and Alaska this year.

“All of our spending is dependent on the enthusiasm of the Tea Party Express members,” Russell said. “It’s up to that race and that candidate to capture their imagination.”

As to whether O’Donnell has done that to this point, Russell admits “not quite yet.” But he expressed confidence that the money will flood in over the coming days.

“I’m sure we’ll be spending six figures in Delaware,” Russell predicted.

In an interview with The Hill, O’Donnell said the same sort of outside support that helped promote Miller in Alaska could put her over the top in her primary against Castle.

“We’re already ahead of where Joe was in the polls,” O’Donnell said. “If we could just get that extra push.”

The difference, of course, is that Delaware is not Alaska, and not just because of the radically different climates. While the state has elected Republicans like William Roth and Mike Castle himself, who has served in statewide office in Delaware or as the state’s sole Congressman continuously since 1981. Castle’s done that not because he’s a Tea Party conservative, but because he’s a moderate Republican who’s able to get re-elected in a state that has gone Democratic in every Presidential election since 1992.

And Christine O’Donnell ? Well, Stephen Bainbridge took a look at her issues page, and wasn’t impressed at all:

On top of reflecting about a 6th grade writing style, it is one of the most intellectually dishonest document’s I’ve read in ages. Examples:

  • Accuses Castle of voting “to subject children to out-of-state abortions without consent of parents.” To subject? The implication is that there is something coercive going on.
  • Accuses Castle of ” the bill to destroy, exploit and experiment on unborn children as scientific lab-rats.” I don’t support embryonic stem cell research, but this is an outrageous way of describing an issue on which reasonable people can and do differ
  • Accuses Castle of “Voted to ban exploration for American energy, keeping gas prices high.” The implication is that he voted to keep gas prices high.
  • Accuses Castle of “Voted to allow liberal activist judges to strip “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, against the Constitutional protection of marriage, and against educational choice for parents with children in failing schools.” Prove it. Identify the votes.
  • Says that she “Believes our country was founded on core values of faith, family and freedom and will fight to defend those values.” Great. Another culture warrior. If she really intended to fight for freedom, she’d have to include the freedom to disagree with those alleged core values. But I doubt that is the kind of freedom she has in mind.
  • Says that “Christine’s strong support of 2nd Amendment rights has earned her an “A” rating from the NRA.” Great. Just what this country needs. More guns.
  • Says she opposes “outsourcing our foreign policy to the U.N.” Who the hell doesn’t? Does she really think Mike Castle wants to do that?  BTW, does she see black helicopters everywhere?

I’ve been a Burke/Kirk/Buckley/Neuhaus conservative for ages. And one thing conservatives don’t do is to let the perfect become the enemy of the good. We leave that for fundamentalist extremists

The most important question, though, is what the polls say:

Delaware’s U.S. Senate race is basically unchanged from last month, with Republican Mike Castle again earning less than 50% support. But, still, the longtime GOP congressman holds a 12-point lead over his Democratic opponent.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state finds Castle picking up 49% of the vote, while Democrat Chris Coons gets 37% support.  Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate, and nine percent (9%) are undecided.

Conservative activist Christine O’Donnell, who is challenging Castle for the GOP Senate nomination in a September 14 primary, now runs 10 points behind Coons. The Democrat gets 46% of the vote to O’Donnell’s 36%.  Ten percent (10%) favor another candidate, and eight percent (8%) are undecided.  Last month, O’Donnell was running virtually even with Coons, 41% to 39%.

So, the question Delaware Republicans face is whether they want to go with a sure thing in a state that hasn’t been friendly to Republicans in almost two decades, or whether they want to go with a candidate that is likely to send independent voters back into the arms of the Democrats. As with Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the choice would seem rather obvious.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.