he dust has settled in Delaware's bitter GOP primary for Joe Biden's old Senate seat — and many conservatives are characterizing the result as a "nightmare." Republican leaders did their best to defeat conservative marketing consultant Christine O'Donnell, but she pulled out a stunning win over moderate Rep. Mike Castle (a political fixture in the state for more than three decades) whose presumptive win in November was central to the GOP's hopes of retaking the Senate. Now, Tea Party favorite O'Donnell will be facing off against Democrat Chris Coons as the underdog. Will Delaware's "East Coast Sarah Palin" be able to surge again in the midterms? Does it matter? (Watch Karl Rove call O'Donnell "nutty")
Republicans really blew it: There's no way, says Jay Cost in The Weekly Standard, that O'Donnell will be the next senator from Delaware. This isn't Alaska — Delaware is an increasingly blue state, and voters won't embrace her conservative views, or her "list of personal issues a mile long." (See related video.) The "electability argument" against O'Donnell is "so clear and convincing" that her win can only be "about sending a message to 'RINOs,'" Senate be damned.
"Fun facts about Delaware"
O'Donnell hasn't lost yet: That conventional wisdom might prevail, says Ben Domenech in RedState, "in a conventional political year." But in this Tea Party moment, when even "my politically moderate relatives told me they liked Christine O'Donnell," I'm not betting against her. Besides, if she does lose, conservatives still win. Moderates like Castle just "dilute" the GOP brand, "confuse voters," and give "aid and comfort to the Left."
"Don't repeat the mistakes of the past"
The Tea Party doesn't get Delaware: The conservatives claiming that O'Donnell can win in November "are not from Delaware," says David Weigel in Slate. A "pure ideological candidate" like O'Donnell "has never won a statewide race in Delaware in modern times" and the only reason she beat Castle is cash and unprecedented meddling from outside "political donors and activists." Sarah Palin, the Tea Party Express, and Sen. Jim DeMint can help O'Donnell all they want, but they can't vote in the First State. "The most likely scenario is that a shocked Delaware electorate elevates Coons to the U.S. Senate while waiting to see if it can give Castle another crack at statewide office in 2012."
"A requiem for Mike Castle"
The Tea Party already won: O'Donnell's victory might be making Tea Partiers and "partisan Democrats" happy, but "I'm despondent," says Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post. If popular moderates like Castle can go down, Republican lawmakers everywhere will be nervously watching their right flank, thinking "there but for the grace of the Tea Party go I." If you thought bipartisanship was dead now, just wait for the next Congress.
"Why Christine O'Donnell's victory is scary"
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