Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 13, 2010

GOP SENATE PRIMARY HEATS UP IN DELAWARE.... Of all the Republican Senate pick-up opportunities, Delaware was supposed to be one of the easy ones. The seat once held by Vice President Biden is open this year, and Rep. Mike Castle (R), a relatively moderate former governor, was largely seen as a shoo-in.

But as we've seen repeatedly this year, GOP primaries can shake things up in unexpected ways. Castle's swearing in has been rudely interrupted by right-wing activist Christine O'Donnell. The challenger has clearly generated genuine fear within the Castle camp -- his campaign started spending money a couple of weeks ago that it never expected to be necessary -- and a new PPP poll shows O'Donnell inching ahead.

It looks like there's a real possibility of a major upset in the Delaware Senate primary on Tuesday night, with insurgent conservative Christine O'Donnell leading longtime Congressman and Governor Mike Castle 47-44.

It's hard to compare these results with other recent polling -- since no one expected this to be competitive, there just aren't many other polls -- but given the wild-eyed panic within the Republican establishment, it's likely internal surveys are offering similar data.

Also note, it's not just the polls giving O'Donnell a sense of momentum. Last week, former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin (R) threw her support to the far-right challenger, and over the weekend, primary voters started receiving robo-calls from Palin. Likewise, both the National Rifle Association and right-wing Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) endorsed O'Donnell in recent days.

Hoping to rescue the one-time favorite, the Republican establishment is furiously going after the challenger. Last week, for the example, the Republican Party of Delaware filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission, accusing O'Donnell of illegally collaborating with the Tea Party Express. (State parties don't usually file complaints with the feds against one of their own U.S. Senate candidates.) The party is also dishing dirt on O'Donnell to Republican media outlets.

And just as an added twist, also note that Castle could still pull a Lieberman and run as a third-party candidate if he loses the primary, though he's been reluctant to talk about the option.

If I had to put money on the race, I'd say Castle still manages to eke out a win when primary voters head to the polls tomorrow. But I thought Sen. Lisa Murkowski would win in Alaska, too, and it's proving to be one of those years for the Republicans' far-right base.

If you're thinking that New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is enjoying all of this, we're on the same page.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

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When one decides to ride the tiger, the dismount can be difficult. . .

Posted by: DAY on September 13, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

How do you suppose the Republican Party establishment feels about DeMint? Has anyone heard speculation about his intentions in 2012? Seems like he's aiming for something.

Posted by: Johio on September 13, 2010 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

This is exactly why I'm not quite as pessimistic about Democrats chances of holding the house and the Senate. In spite of the cable hysterics, the fact remains that a huge chunk of the Republican party is insane. While I'm smart enough to recognize that most people are not as liberal as I am, I also know that once reasonable rational people, who aren't political junkies get a look at this years slate of candidates, they will vote for sanity over craziness.

I hope.

Posted by: atlliberal on September 13, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

From DC, on vacation: Was on the mall yesterday a couple of blocks west of the Capitol, where the TPers were having a 9-12 rally. Didn't look huge and many people were leaving early, walking west while the shouting was still going on. As we left one of the museums (at closing, I was the last one out), we noticed that one of the TPers had left his/her signs lying on the ground, along with an America flag, sort of propped up but much of it was on the ground... such respect. The signs (which said "Don't believe the Liberal Media") were printed by tellthetruth2010.org, which takes you here: http://www.mrc.org/splash/MRCLivePage.htm, an announcement from Brent Bozell, founder of Media Research Center, which is funded in part by Scaife and ExxonMobil). Typical.

Posted by: Hannah on September 13, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

As pessimistic about the chances of Democrats to the House and Senate. Despite the hysterical cable, the fact remains that a large part of the Republican Party is crazy.

Escorts London

Posted by: Stvenwill on September 13, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Hannah, you're not supposed to read the fine print! (I'm curious; what was the age-and color- of these protesters?)

Posted by: DAY on September 13, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

This is truly unbelievable. I'm from Delaware, and we always thought of Christine O'Donnell as a joke. There aren't many statewide Republicans who hold major sway over voters here, so O'Donnell just frequently puts herself on the ballot for various offices and loses massively every time. It's pretty much a running gag. The fact that she's even being discussed on national media outlets is stunning.

Posted by: shawn on September 13, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Trashing O'Donnell so vehemently means RNC is fully aware that she will be defeated by Coombs. Castle may have advantage, compared to Murkowski, of advance warning to long-time GOP faithful that the crazy candidate really has a chance to beat him, and so getting more of them to turn up. But I will not be surprised at all if O'Donnell doesn't simply beat Castle, but does so decisively. Engaging in high octane negative ads at end of campaign is a very risky exercise, which could make O'Donnell (who still has far lower voter recognition than Castle) a sympathetic figure.

Posted by: Bill on September 13, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Castle's not a bad guy... but my gut feeling is that the Republican Party is (finally!) paying for its explicit tactic of catering to extremists. The truth is that this is bad news for everybody, but I can't bring myself to feel any regrets.

Posted by: MattF on September 13, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

The lede in the Weekly Standard story says they obtained court documents on Saturday. In a civil matter.

Now how the hell did they manage that?

Posted by: efgoldman on September 13, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to suggest a counter-narrative to the "enthusiasm gap" stories which claim the Democrats are so screwed for the election because their voters are sitting home in the primaries while the Republicans are fired up in large numbers.

Democrats aren't voting in primaries because there usually isn't much of a contest, whereas in the Republican primaries there are many instances of a nutcase case running with great enthusiasm against a regular Republican. Now imagine that you're a normal Republican, assuming the category still exists, and your candidate, somebody like Castle, has just been trashed by someone you recognize as crazy, what are you going to do November? I suggest that given a choice between voting for a lunatic and a Democrat, a lot of Republicans and Republican leaning independents are going to sit the election out.

Posted by: john sherman on September 13, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

If O'Donnell and LaMontaign (in NH) win their races, this will mean that the Rpublicans have nominated fifteen candidates that should be kept away from matches and sharp objects. But while some of us keep arguing that 'serves Obama and the Blue Dogs right' -- a position rightly described in a state blog as being the equivalent of a teenager committing suicide to punish his parents -- we forget one important thing.

Not only are we giving these people 6 years to create mischief, we don't have a chance to reverse those losses for six years. We did so well in 2006 and 2008 that there are only 10 Republican seats open in 2012, and only 13 more in 2014, and a lot of them are in states we don't have a chance in hell of winning -- Mississippi, Wyoming, etc. So if we lose seats this year, we're going to be stuck with those losses.
Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on September 13, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

@ john sherman:
or conversely, the teabaggers could suffer an "enthusiasm gap" of their own if their candidate isn't on the ballot. (fingers crossed!)

Posted by: mellowjohn on September 13, 2010 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Shirlene on December 8, 2010 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK



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