Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How O'Donnell Pulled It Off

Christine O'Donnell's success depended upon an alignment of factors. Here's a partial list:

Timing. The Tea Party Express swept in at the right moment. They had just enough of a lead time to build up support for O'Donnell but before other facts about O'Donnell could enter the public narrative. Castle might have begun reversing the momentum, but it wasn't enough.

Hopes of a wave. Many conservatives feel empowered in the current environment. This empowerment hurt Castle in two ways. Many conservatives felt as though they could take a loss in Delaware and were willing to risk it on O'Donnell. They also felt as though a wave of public anger could indeed propel O'Donnell into the Senate and restore the GOP to "purity."

Too harsh, too late. The Castle people delayed going after O'Donnell. This delay caused them to have to go after her fiercely in order to be heard in the waning days of the campaign. These attacks were interpreted as too nasty and allowed O'Donnell to portray herself as a victim, a role she gladly took on. With more time, the Castle people might have shifted the media narrative back in their favor. Meanwhile, O'Donnell's supporters launched an all-out attack on Castle, assailing his record and his personal integrity.

Popular alienation. Voters are very unhappy with incumbents, and Mike Castle was an incumbent's incumbent. O'Donnell cast herself as an avatar for wrath against the establishment, and this gambit worked. Castle cast some high-profile votes against certain conservative dogmas, and he paid the price for them in this race. The state GOP's involvement often wasn't helpful in this regard, as it made Castle appear even more "establishment."

A slow cycle. If this race was held earlier in the primary cycle, Castle could have more easily gotten by. O'Donnell depended heavily upon massive national media attention, and this race would probably have gotten lost in the noise of other primaries.

A closed primary. This would have been a completely different race were it an open primary where independents could make their voices heard.

In any case, if the GOP is to have even the slightest hope of keeping this seat, Mike Castle will have to reconcile with O'Donnell and try to send some moderates her way.


  1. Not sure I agree with your last item on the closed primary. I think Independents are breaking heavily in an anti-incumbent, anti-Establishment way, especially since they comprise a large portion of the Tea Party movement. If they'd been involved in this primary, it likely would have made O'Donnell's win even more lopsided.

  2. Conventional wisdom has it that Coons will easily defeat O'Donnell, but this election cycle has been anything but conventional.

  3. Not being a Delaware voter, I'm not sure I'm entitled to an opinion, but if I were I'd say this: without a filibuster-proof majority the Senate really isn't that important. If the Republicans can take the House that's good enough. Right now RINO-slaying in the primaries is more important.

  4. There are plenty of back-stabbers in the republican ruling class, who want to keep commoners like O'Donnell out of the throne room. But if a crumbling rusted out state like Delaware can run even a token conservative against the ruling class, that is better than electing a corrupt ruling class republican living in his Castle Castle.

  5. The GOP needs to understand no more RHINOs.

  6. Good analysis. I'm almost over my disappointment with you beating me to "Gettin' Whiggy"

  7. Yes indeed. It's not enough to replace Democrats with RINOs, we must clean house across the board. If that costs the occasional loss so be it. As Senators only run once every 6 years it will take several election cycles to regain control over our run-away government.

    For those who think O'Donnell has no chance in the general election, remember she was well behind Castle in the polls only a few weeks ago. It's a whole new ballgame now....

  8. Control of the Senate is not going to happen this time around, O'Donnell victory or not.

    A veto proof Congress is not going to happen until 2012 at the earliest.

    We can afford to be a bit extravagant at this time.

    And tossing a 70 year old, first time Senate candidate, who also happens to be a tremendous squish is only mildly extravagant. He was a placewarmer for some future Democrats anyway, and everyone in Delaware knew it.

  9. Fook purity. I just want the so called party of small government to live up to its advertising.

    The fools could start with the Drug War.


  10. The Tea Party movement isn't the same thing as the conservative movement. We're suspicious of big-government statism all the way 'round.

    M. Simon has hit the nail on the head. Even many social conservatives (I live in Oklahoma so I know a few) have soured on the notion of "trying to use the sword of Caesar to accomplish the LORD's work", as I've heard it stated.

  11. I can not believe that a Republican senatorial candidate that lost his shot at the seat would not endorse his opponent. Murkowski and now Castle show that Rinos aren't really Republicans that vote with the Democrats from time to time. They are anti-Republicans. I am a big-tent Republican, but if a big-tent Republican loses a primary, they endorse the Republican in the race.
    Best of luck to O'Donnell and the Tea Party!