This past week, the fault lines within the Republican Party were laid bare as Tea Party forces, led by former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska and Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, stormed the barricades during the Republican Primary elections held on September 14, 2010, and nominated Christine O'Donnell as the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in Delaware, a state that has trended Democrat in recent years and where Vice-President Joe Biden had served as Senator since 1973. Ms. O'Donnell defeated Mike Castle, a well-known moderate Republican who has been a member of Congress since 1993 and was a two-term Governor. Congressman Castle was much better financed than Ms. O'Donnell and was the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination.
The primary election contest between O'Donnell and Castle was bitterly contested with Castle and national news media pundits, including Fox News contributors Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer, raising serious questions about the truthfulness and integrity of O'Donnell, as well as her financial difficulties with the Internal Revenue Service and financial institutions. She responded by criticizing Congressman Castle for voting for President Obama's stimulus packages and proposed Democratic "Cap and Trade" legislation; and also called upon him to put on his "man pants" after engaging in "un-manly tactics" during the campaign.
After losing the primary election, Congressman Castle has now declined to support O'Donnell in the general election in November. On election night, Karl Rove pronounced that Republicans, although previously favored to win handily, will now likely lose the Delaware Senate seat and with it, the majority and committee chairmanships in the Senate to Harry Reid and the Democrats. Krauthammer recently opined on the BILL O'REILLY SHOW that O'Donnell has only one chance in ten to win in November, although adding: "I hope I am wrong." Senator Jim DeMint responded by saying that he would rather for the Republicans to nominate a losing candidate that stands for something, rather than to nominate a winning candidate that does not embrace conservative values. O'Donnell, for her part, taking note that she had been branded a "wacko", denounced her critics as "anti-American" in one of her speeches following her primary victory.
After all of this drama following the September 14, Republican Primary election, one can legitimately ask whether divided Republicans can nevertheless win the November Senatorial election in a blue state, or whether traditional conventional wisdom applies - that a divided political party traditionally loses (following the logic and advice that Ben Franklin once gave to his colleagues during the American Revolution - that "we either hang together or we will hang separately").
Although the Delaware Senate race was really not on my radar screen until a day or two before the primary election, what has happened since O'Donnell's victory is in many ways reminiscent of what happened during the Congressional race in North Mississippi (MS-01) during a special election held two years ago. In that race, after the appointment of Congressman Roger Wicker to replace Trent Lott as United States Senator, several prominent Republicans ran in a heated and ugly primary to take Wicker's seat in the House of Representatives. The race became so heated that the defeated candidate in the run-off election refused to publicly support the new Republican nominee. The result was that a Democrat was elected to Congress in MS-01 for the first time in many years. Now, chastened Mississippi Republicans are united in a spirited effort to regain Wicker's old House seat.
O'Donnell supporters correctly state that these are not ordinary times and that frustrated Americans, especially conservatives and independents, seem ready to "throw the rascals out" during this election season. If this is true, O'Donnell still has a chance to win in Delaware where her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, is a far-left attorney and county executive who has fully supported the Obama agenda and now downplays a piece he wrote for the Amherst College newspaper - "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist." However, it would help O'Donnell's chances if Castle would fully embrace her candidacy and she would graciously accept his support.
Jim DeMint is correct that Republicans want new and different type leaders who are not perceived as RINOs - Republicans In Name Only. If Christine O'Donnell is elected Senator, Republicans will certainly have found a different type leader in Delaware