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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Delaware Dilemma: Can O'Donnell Win the General Election?

Will Tea Party advance their cause by helping a liberal Democrat get elected?

Years ago I had the privilege of meeting the late William F. Buckley Jr. This was during my formative years in conservative politics shortly after I worked on the U.S. Senate campaign for the late Congressman John Ashbrook, a founder of the conservative movement. I'm thinking of Buckley today because of what is called "Buckley's rule" which boils down to: vote for any conservative candidate in a primary who can win the general election.

Tuesday, Christine O'Donnell (campaign web site) scored a huge upset win in the Delaware GOP  primary contest for the Senate seat previously held by Vice President Joe Biden. O'Donnell blew past liberal Republican Mike Castle, a longtime fixture in Delaware politics to win by a margin of about 6% with a exceptionally large total turnout of 57,582 GOP voters. That's nearly three times the average for GOP turnout in an off year primary.

The problem is that in the 2006 election for Senate in Delaware, the previous off year election, Sen. Tom Carper (D) [full disclosure: he was also my landlord in Washington 1988-89] got 165,421 votes, nearly 100,000 more than the GOP challenger Jan Ting.

Granted that this year is not 2006 and the GOP wave is fully alive even in states like Delaware which was clearly demonstrated by the primary turnout.  But is that enough to overcome a deficit of 100,000 votes?

The latest PPP poll shows Delaware's Democrat Senate candidate Chris Coons up by 16 points with O'Donnell having big favorability problems due to character questions (I won't go further into that, but it suffices to say that she's an easy target in a tough state). If O'Donnell loses, it's likely that any chance the GOP had to retake control of the Senate and advance the Tea Party cause of lower taxes and less spending will be much curtailed. PPP concludes their report by saying: "The result of the Delaware primary last night is the best thing that has happened to Democrats electorally since election night in 2008."

Tea Partiers: Time to Put Up the Money!

In the last 24 hours there has been a spate of news stories that suggest that the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has overall direction for the entire senate campaign this fall, might not support O'Donnell. Here's a statement from NRSC Chairman U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX):
“Let there be no mistake: The National Republican Senatorial Committee – and I personally as the committee’s chairman – strongly stand by all of our Republican nominees, including Christine O’Donnell in Delaware.

“I reached out to Christine this morning, and as I have conveyed to all of our nominees, I offered her my personal congratulations and let her know that she has our support. This support includes a check for $42,000 – the maximum allowable donation that we have provided to all of our nominees – which the NRSC will send to her campaign today.
Who could have blamed the NRSC if they had not fully backed O'Donnell with campaign cash? After all, many on the right have withheld their support for the NRSC because that organization has supported several RINOS in the past.   But the NRSC clearly respects the decision of the voters in Delaware, just as they do in states that nominate RINOS. And it should be pointed out the NRSC is also heavily backing Rand Paul in Kentucky , Sharron Angle in Nevada and Joe Miller in Alaska among other Tea Party favorites.

Still, the challenge to Tea Partiers is clear. It's not enough to simply cleanse the GOP of RINOS. To advance your cause you have to win elections. And in large measure that comes down to money. Complaining about the RNC or the NRSC isn't doing enough won't win the game. Put your money where your mouth is. Click on the candidate links above to contribute to those campaigns.

In July, I prepared my own list of top ten targeted races we needed to win to retake the Senate. That was before the Delaware primary which I and everyone else expected Mike Castle would win. I stand by my top three candidates worthy of your financial support: Sharron Angle (NV), Marco Rubio (FL) and Pat Toomey (PA). Click those links to donate directly to their campaigns. Now that O'Donnell's nomination makes the challenge to retake the Senate more difficult, I'll have to drop Rob Portman of Ohio from my list and add O'Donnell to it. Portman is doing just fine anyway with large leads in most polls.

If you can make just one contribution to a candidate outside your home state, I'd say to send it to Sharron Angle. Defeating Harry Reid in Nevada must remain our top priority. If you can also make a contribution to Rubio and Toomey that's even better. And let's all try and help Christine O'Donnell if we can.

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