Republican Backlash Hits Tea Party Endorsee Christine O’Donnell

The nation's 2nd smallest state is becoming the biggest battleground between the Establishment GOP and Tea Party insurgents.

The backlash among even conservative Republicans against Christine O’Donnell in the days since she received the endorsement of Tea Party Express seems to be intensifying:

Washington (CNN) – Fresh on the heels of Joe Miller’s surprising win over Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska Republican Senate primary, the Tea Party movement is setting its sights on Delaware.

Now the Delaware Republican Party is taking heed – and taking on – the Tea Party-backed candidate in the state’s Republican Senate primary, sparking a war of words between the state’s establishment GOP and the Tea Party movement.

It’s a race that pits conservative Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell against moderate Rep. Mike Castle, Delaware’s former two-term governor and lone Congressman since 1993.

Both candidates’ campaigns have become increasingly caustic, especially as Tea Party-backed candidates across the country have picked up win after win against GOP establishment candidates.

The Tea Party Express endorsed the conservative O’Donnell in July, and recently committed to spending at least six-figures in the state.

“We are launching an aggressive multimedia and multi-platform campaign to help propel Christine O’Donnell to victory, and we’ve only just begun,” Amy Kremer, Chairman of the Tea Party Express, said in a statement.

The group originally planned to spend about $250,000 on the race, but is now considering expanding their presence with TV and radio ad buys in Philadelphia, said Tea Party Express political director Joe Wierzbicki.

A similar last minute media blitz by the Tea Party Express is credited with propelling Miller – a formerly little known candidate – to victory over Murkowski, the Republican Party-backed incumbent.

The group launched a series of TV and radio ads Thursday that support O’Donnell, and rail against Castle as a liberal candidate who “just keeps supporting the failed policies of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.”

It’s a move that has the Castle campaign fighting back.

“Out-of-state interest groups have threatened to spend half a million dollars to fund the disgusting tactics being used by the O’Donnell campaign to make accusations,” said Castle campaign manager Mike Quaranta.

Meanwhile, the Castle campaign has launched therealchristine.com, a site devoted to aggregating negative news about O’Donnell.

Tom Ross, state committee chairman of the Delaware Republican Party, defended the negative nature of the site. “The stories might not be flattering, but they are factual. …Sometimes it is necessary to make sure that the facts get out there,” Ross said.

Just the other day, conservative rock star Chris Christie crossed the river from New Jersey to appear with and endorse Castle in  a video that is likely to end up being a campaign commercial before the primary race is over.

The battle has also played itself out in the conservative blogosphere, with people like Dan Riehl and Robert Stacey McCain taking what can only be described as an ideological purist view of the race to the point where Riehl actually seems to believe something like this:

And on principle, I’m not going to pick up his dirt and drop it on her head. Why so many would be conservatives seem intent on doing just that in this case makes no sense to me. We’ve been fighting to take back the GOP for years. Finally we’re winning. And now we should surrender to such a liberal Republican? Not me, no matter what. I’d rather have a Democrat, than a Mike Castle. The potential for damage with him under our banner is even worse than the alternative, as far as I’m concerned.

Now, principles are good things. I’ve got principles of my own that I feel very strongly about, and they quite honestly lead me to wonder if the GOP controlling the Senate is really any better than Democrats controlling the Senate. However, I know this much; if you are a partisan who views Democrats in power as a bad thing then you want the GOP to win and it’s going to be a lot easier for the GOP to win control of the Senate with Mike Castle in Joe Biden’s former seat than some Democrat.

Gabriel Malor is among those conservative bloggers who gets that:

I’m genuinely puzzled at folks who say they’d rather the seat be Democrat than in the hands of a RINO. Given the number of Senate seats now in play, this is tantamount to declaring that they’d rather have a Democratic Senate than a Republican one.

I’m saying, it might be different if Republicans were going to have control of the Senate anyway. Then, heh, no real harm to letting our “problem Senators” know what we expect in the future. Same thing on the flipside. If the Democrats were going to have insurmountable control of the Senate…again, it doesn’t matter so much whether the Democrat or the RINO wins.

But we’re talking about taking control of the Senate, something that only now is turning into a real possibility. And that’s going to take putting up with folks like Collins and Snowe and Castle. As infuriating as they are, I’d rather put up with them than watch the Democrats run the country into the ground under another two years of Majority Leader Reid (or his successor).

It’s just astonishing that folks — good, genuine, GOP people — are actually advocating for a path that leads to Democratic majority in the Senate.

As does Stephen Bainbridge:

Ronald Reagan successfully rebranded the conservative movement as one with a big tent. Why exclusionists like Dan Riehl want to turn it into a small tent movement puzzles me. If they think there is a conservative majority in this country, they’re dead wrong–and their narrow views on issues like immigration, gay rights, and so on are helping make sure there never will be one. The US is a center-right country, with at most maybe 35% ideological conservatives, and a lot of them want the government to keep its hands off their Medicare! By letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, Riehl and his ilk are ensuring themselves of a pure minority. I guess it makes for good talk radio and blog posts, but it’s a lousy electoral strategy.

The Republican party wasn’t always this way, of course. As Professor Bainbridge points out, there was a time not too long ago when it was the home of conservatives like Paul Laxalt and moderate Republicans like William Cohen. If it’s ever going to be the kind of national party capable of getting it’s agenda through Congress, it’s going to need to be that kind of party again, and that means acknowledging the fact that Mike Castle is the kind of Republican that can be elected statewide in Delaware, and Christine O’Donnell, as she has proven time and again in her quixotic efforts to run for office, most definitely is not.

Purism is a fine thing, it’s even got a nobility of its own, but when it becomes this rigid it just leads to defeat.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, Congress, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    On the same topic, the relation between traditional conservatives and the Tea Party, I found this piece pretty interesting:
     
    http://www.frumforum.com/the-purge-at-cato
     
    Interesting to me because I used to read Wilkinson’s old happiness blog, and disagree with him a bit at the margins.
     
    Will libertarians lose in the Tea Party skirmish?

  2. Michael says:

    Good destroy her utterly. At least with Castle the seat goes Republican. If she wins the seat it stays Democrat….so destroy her. That politics.

  3. Juneau: says:

    But remember; the TEA party participants are just an astroturf front for the Republican party.  It’s extremely amusing to see how the narrative changes constantly regarding the TEA party and “their” candidates.  And throughout, the left doesn’t even have the good graces to blush over the fact that they have demonized and mis-characterized the movement all along – and continue to do so.   It is beyond the left to realize that the movement is spontaneous, principled, and completely beyond their ability to control or marginalize.
     
    Here’s a quick flash for the left – you never will catch up to what is really going on.  Or, if you ever do, it will be too late.

  4. Juneau: says:

    @ Mataconis
    As Professor Bainbridge points out, there was a time not too long ago when it was the home of conservatives like Paul Laxalt and moderate Republicans like William Cohen. If it’s ever going to be the kind of national party capable of getting it’s agenda through Congress, it’s going to need to be that kind of party again,


    The only problem with this concept is that it is demonstrably false.  The Republicans had control of both the legislative and executive branches and did almost nothing to advance conservative principles.   The notion that it takes moderate approaches has proven to be false, because all this has done is slightly slow the progressive agenda in this country.

    This is why liberals were crowing that the election of 2008 was “the end of the Reagan era.”   Because it has been a long, slow slide over the last 20 years to the point where today’s moderate Republicans tout the ability to “compromise” as the the primary ideal quality to have in a candidate.  Where do you see liberal candidates being touted because of their ability to compromise with Republicans?   And one only has to reflect upon the “I won” mentality of this administration and this Democrat congress to see that compromise is the furthest thing on their mind.

    Don’t be afraid to be called mean, don’t be afraid to be called greedy, and don’t be afraid to be called a racist.  We need to be effective, despite the progressive agenda –  not afraid of what someone may say about us.

    The moderate approach only works when facing statesmen and women across the aisle; Democrat legislators who believe that meeting in the middle is a compromise, rather than just the fact that they have surrendered (for now) their most radical, offensive legislative goals.  That has not been the case on the Democrat side for a long, long, time.

  5. The Republicans had control of both the legislative and executive branches and did almost nothing to advance conservative principles.

    Perhaps that’s because the GOP isn’t really a conservative party, but a political party with a conservative wing.

  6. Eric Florack says:

    However, I know this much; if you are a partisan who views Democrats in power as a bad thing then you want the GOP to win and it’s going to be a lot easier for the GOP to win control of the Senate with Mike Castle in Joe Biden’s former seat than some Democrat.

    That’s as need be, James, but if in a liking people running under the banner of the GOP who are in fact not but Democrat light, what have we gained?

  7. Eric Florack says:

    Correction:
    (Darn mike needed calibration…)
    That’s as maybe, James, but if in electing people under the banner of the GOP who are in fact naught but Democrat Lite, what have we gained?  What essential principle has been served?

  8. Juneau: says:

    @ Mataconis
     
    Perhaps that’s because the GOP isn’t really a conservative party, but a political party with a conservative wing.


    Certainly.  However, the question is how long has that been the case?  There was a time in fairly recent history where conservative principles and the GOP were synonymous.  You are correct in saying that is no longer the case.  The point of the TEA party is that this development is not a good thing and compromise has done nothing but weaken the party, since it has largely been a one-way process.  Again,  the main issue here from the conservative standpoint is really “at what price?”   The price for compromise, with an uncompromising left, has been to lose our identity as a conservative party.  There has to be a difference between the Republican message and the progressive message.  When the “best” candidate the Republicans can come up with is “Mr. Reach-across-the-aisle- John McCain” …  we have a problem.  We need to get back on message, and that message is not compromise with the left.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    “But remember; the TEA party participants are just an astroturf front for the Republican party Koch brothers.”

    Happy to be of help…

    “And one only has to reflect upon the ‘I won’ mentality of this administration and this Democrat congress to see that compromise is the furthest thing on their mind.”

    That is a universal mentality, as Bush acted just like that when he won in 2004 and Republicans will act the same way whenever they regain power…

    “There was a time in fairly recent history where conservative principles and the GOP were synonymous.”

    Feel free to point to a period in history when the GOP was synonymous with conservative principles and actually exercised said principles while also holding power for any significant period of time…many conservatives around here whine all the time that the GOP would be just dandy if the party would just stick to conservative principles, but the politicians of the party seem to be allergic to standing by many conservative principles once they actually gain power…so of course there is no actual proof that this conservative nirvana could actually achieve any success once in power…

  10. Eric Florack says:

    That is a universal mentality, as Bush acted just like that when he won in 2004 and Republicans will act the same way whenever they regain power…

    Unfortunately, you’re probably right, but that’s only true enough that people acted are primarily interested in the power that they receive, and not the principles that they’re supposed to be servicing.

  11. Juneau: says:

    @ AIP
    But remember; the TEA party participants are just an astroturf front for the Republican party Koch brothers.
    The sheer numbers across the country of people who identify with the TEA party show that your assessment is a denial of reality.  The fact that there is no central unifying platform for all of the various TEA party groups also clearly denounces the idea that this is centrally managed by anyone, much less the Koch brothers.
    That is a universal mentality, as Bush acted just like that when he won in 2004
    Really?  Pray tell what legislation of Bush’s was passed in the Republican controlled congress, in the face of the majority of the American people polling against said legislation, without a single Democrat vote?  (crickets)


    Feel free to point to a period in history when the GOP was synonymous with conservative principles and actually exercised said principles while also holding power for any significant period of time


    Of course, you have put a qualifier in this statement, ” for any significant period of time” , which gives you an out for any reply I might make.  So first, let’s agree on what constitutes a significant period of time, then I’ll  give you examples of how the GOP used to be synonymous with conservative values.

  12. An Interested Party says:

    “Pray tell what legislation of Bush’s was passed in the Republican controlled congress, in the face of the majority of the American people polling against said legislation, without a single Democrat vote?”

    As if he wouldn’t of pushed through his Social Security privitization scheme and immigration reform plan if he could have?  Please…that just shows that the current president has been more successful at getting his own legislation passed…

    “So first, let’s agree on what constitutes a significant period of time, then I’ll  give you examples of how the GOP used to be synonymous with conservative values.”

    Give me examples of when the GOP was not only synoymous with conservative values, but also ruled as a conservative party and was not punished for such at the next election…

  13. <blockquote>I’m genuinely puzzled at folks who say they’d rather the seat be Democrat than in the hands of a RINO</blockquote>
    It’s the result of the fact incumbent senators rarely face significant primary challengers and the fact that Senators nowadays never retire.  Having a moderate from your own party in office can often means decades will pass before you get another chance to push a more conservative candidate.

  14. <blockquote>But remember; the TEA party participants are just an astroturf front for the Republican party.  It’s extremely amusing to see how the narrative changes constantly regarding the TEA party and “their” candidates.</blockquote>
    Just because Dr. Frankenstein’s monster has turned on him doesn’t change the fact it was his monster.

  15. <blockquote><blockquote>The Republicans had control of both the legislative and executive branches and did almost nothing to advance conservative principles.</blockquote>
    Perhaps that’s because the GOP isn’t really a conservative party, but a political party with a conservative wing.</blockquote>
    If Republicans winning control of the whole government doesn’t help conservatives advance their agenda, why are you so suprised that conservatives don’t care if Republicans win?

  16. john personna says:

    None of this makes the world look better to those of us who are genuine moderates, and independents, and not mis-registered Democrats or Republicans.
     
    Sure, Conservatives can look from their corner at growing social programs.  At the same time they can count as their achievement taxes below historic norms.  Those two don’t meet in the middle of course.  The (truly) liberal answer is that they should meet on the left, the conservative answer that the should meet on the far right.
     
    Well, a pox on both your houses.  Bar-bell politics brings this.  It is a natural consequence when the crazy fringes outshout the middle.
     
    (I thought Wilkinson was fairly right, if he’s purged, things are only getting worse.)

  17. sam says:

    @Juneau

    This is why liberals were crowing that the election of 2008 was “the end of the Reagan era.” Because it has been a long, slow slide over the last 20 years to the point where today’s moderate Republicans tout the ability to “compromise” as the the primary ideal quality to have in a candidate
     

    Ah, for chrissakes, kid, you’re pretty uninformed about Reagan. He’s often referred to as the Great Communicator, but an equally appropriate sobriquet would be Great Compromiser. Go find some good history of his tenure as governor of California, for instance. Here was a guy who knew how to cut a deal and cut his losses if he had to. That’s what made him the first-rate politician he was. He’d be utterly bewildered by the no-compromise paradigm y’all want to foist onto the conservative movement. But, hey, keep going. It’s all good for us on the other side. Purity purges are so fun to watch.

  18. wr says:

    I keep hearing Juneau and some others talking about “great Republican principles.” I realize I’m ignorand, since the only great Republican ideals I’ve seen enacted involve torturing brown people, giving government power over women’s bodies, telling people who they’re allowed to love, and cutting taxes for rich people. Oh, and invading countries for fun.

    So maybe one of you great conservative could actually list a couple of those principles? I mean, list them without claiming “freedom,” “liberty,” or “goodness” as your cause, as these are terms that everyone on every side — including, I’d expect, Al Qaeda — to embrace.

    What I’ve seen so far is essentially the same platform as the whites ran in in 1871 Mississippi — we hate the coloreds and only we deserve power. But please, I’d love to be educated.

  19. Eric Florack says:

    I realize I’m ignorand, since the only great Republican ideals I’ve seen enacted involve torturing brown people, giving government power over women’s bodies, telling people who they’re allowed to love, and cutting taxes for rich people. Oh, and invading countries for fun.

    Yeah, I think “ignorant” about covers it.

  20. RightKlik says:

    The “big tent” arguments for pragmatism over purity are built on the premise that liberal or moderate Republicans will at least be loyal to the GOP even if they don’t always stay close to the party platform.  Politicians like Arlen Specter and Charlie Christ have demonstrated that support for left-leaning GOP candidates can be a bad investement.  The pragmatists seem to value power above all else.

  21. Pug says:

    I would suggest a duel at dawn between Mr. Riehl and Mr. Bainbridge.

    I mean, honor is surely still a “conservative principle”.

  22. john personna says:

    The pragmatists seem to value power above all else.

    Should I take this, also, as a claim that there are no real authentic moderates?

  23. Eric Florack says:

    Should I take this, also, as a claim that there are no real authentic moderates?

    I consider it one more indication of that.
     

  24. wr says:

    Yup, crickets. Kind of what I expected. And thanks for proving this, Eric. The only “conservative principles” are the ones that involve hating people with dark skins. Everything else flows from that.

  25. Eric Florack says:

    And was more frightening that you are as I suspect the using this argument as a prop, or that you really think this way.  Either way, to racial equality will never occur while opinions like yours exist.

  26. john personna says:

    The fact that I am independent, and promote independence over party membership, might be an indication that I am a moderate.  See the “RINO/DINO” thread.

  27. wr says:

    Eric — One conservative principle. That’s all. Come on, I’m sure you can do it.

  28. Eric Florack says:

    What, exactly, are you babbling about?
     
     

  29. Juneau: says:

     
     
    @ wr
     
    What I’ve seen so far is essentially the same platform as the whites ran in in 1871 Mississippi — we hate the coloreds and only we deserve power. But please, I’d love to be educated.


    That statement shows that you are beyond education – it would be a waste of time.
     
    @ sam
     
    But, hey, keep going. It’s all good for us on the other side. Purity purges are so fun to watch.


    Yeah, its pretty amazing how your side is fairing in the upcoming election, now that the progressive liberals have “purged” the Democrat party of moderates and are driving the ship.   Grayson, Frank, Dodd, Waters, Pelosi, and the rest are doing so well in the polls.  And they’re very anxious to associate themselves with Obama’s policies and “accomplishments” as well, are they not?

    By the way, the quote about the “end of the Reagan” era is not mine – you’ll have to fight that fight with the liberals who made the statement.   In regards to Reagan being the “Great Compromiser”, it is my firm hope that whichever Republican president gets elected in 2012 compromises with the Democrats just as much as Obama has compromised with Republicans.  Surely that standard would make you happy as well?



  30. wr says:

    Juneau — Grayson’s doing just fine in his polls. Nancy Pelosi doesnt’ have a care in the world about reelection. Dodd isn’t running, remember? I’ve seen nothing to suggest Frank is threatened, and if ethically challenged Maxine Waters loses, she’ll be replaced by another Democrat. I doubt there’s a single Republican in her district. So clearly, you are making all this up.

    Meanwhile, you, just like Zels and Florack and all the rest, are incapable of naming one single conservative principle. Because there are none. You hate people, and all you care about is making sure there is one group that’s lower than you are.

  31. sam says:

    Actually, Juneau, I was responding to this:
     

    Because it has been a long, slow slide over the last 20 years to the point where today’s moderate Republicans tout the ability to “compromise” as the the primary ideal quality to have in a candidate

     
    Because we all know you despise moderate Republicans even more that you do liberal Democrats. The latter you can kinda understand, after all, in your mind it’s a different church. But moderate Republicans? Pronounce anathema upon them, apostates all from the one true church of conservative purity where not compromising is a sacrament. But, hey, I’ve come around to hoping for a Teatard victory in November. I’ve become convinced that Daniel Larison is right:
     

    As I have said before, I don’t think the GOP will win the House, but if that did happen it would primarily be bad news for the Republican Party and the conservative movement. If that seems a little too counterintuitive for you, let me explain. Should the GOP somehow win the House, they will not have earned it and they will not deserve it, and they will proceed to destroy themselves in very short order. Arguably, there was nothing worse for the American right than to be given the free gift of winning the 2002 midterms, because this win encouraged them to pursue the policies that proved to be their undoing, and a similar win in 2010 would have the same effect of enabling Republicans’ most destructively self-indulgent impulses…. 

    After all, even if the Republicans won the House there would not be much that they could do once in office, except waste their time as they did in the ’90s hauling executive branch officials before committees to testify on this or that outrage of the week. They would likely be stymied by the Democratic majority in the Senate on any major legislation, and Obama would veto just about anything they passed if it somehow got to his desk. At the same time, Obama would make them into a much more effective foil for his arguments once they had some hold on power, and out of frustration they would become increasingly obsessed with “getting” Obama and become even less interested in representing the interests of their constituents. (http://www.amconmag.com/larison/2010/09/02/kain-and-conservatism/)
     

    So, party on, dude, I’m pulling for your “victory”.