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Christine O'Donnell's Delaware Primary Victory Should Put Smug Democrats On Notice

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The election of Christine O'Donnell in the Delaware Republican primary was an unprecedented  victory for the Tea Party Express and Sarah Palin who backed the candidate in opposition to the regular Republican Party. More importantly, it serves as a barometer of the public mood – an increasingly energized fiscal conservatism and repudiation of Big Government spending even in a traditionally blue state like Delaware, echoing the election of Governor Chris Christie in adjacent New Jersey. The latter was dismissed by Democrat leadership as a “local issue” but that argument won’t wash in Delaware today. O’Donnell’s election is part of a major political trend at the national level, one that is 180 degrees opposite of the current administration’s nanny-state philosophy.

 

But Democrats are celebrating O’Donnell’s victory on the assumption that she will be a weaker candidate than the popular Mike Castle in the upcoming general election. christine o'donnellAnd many Republicans seem to agree. The National Republican Senatorial Committee immediately announced that they would not fund O’Donnell’s campaign, short of marked improvement in the polls. While this decision is ostensibly based on the numbers, some of it may in fact be sour grapes given the extraordinarily negative campaign run against O’Donnell. But Karl Rove, speaking on Fox News’ Hannity program last night seemed discouraged, essentially writing-off O’Donnell ‘s chances of winning in the general election. Sean Hannity himself had a different take, indicating that there was no point in re-electing RINO – “Republican in Name Only” – candidates like Mike Castle, who has voted with the Democrats on a number of key issues, such as cap-and-trade. Hannity’s position is that it is better to risk losing the general election with a fiscally conservative candidate than to promote a liberal Republican for the sake of trying to win. Apparently, rank-and-file Republican voters in Delaware agree.

Ultimately, O’Donnell’s senatorial candidacy will test the legs of the Tea Party movement. An O’Donnell victory in the general election will be a surprise to Democrats and Republicans alike, but the Tea Party is known to be full of surprises (i.e. Joe Miller in Alaska), including last night’s. The Democrats will run as dirty a campaign as they can, but that tactic didn’t help Mike Castle – in fact, it probably hurt him. The voters are seeking change and may be more concerned about whom they are voting against than whom they are voting for. Democrat candidate Chris Coons will have a hard time distancing himself from the status quo and O’Donnell is already claiming budding support among Democrat voters.

The question in a heavily Democrat state like Delaware is how many are so-called Reagan Democrats who are more than willing to cross party lines to elect a fiscal conservative. New Jersey went that direction, so Delaware could follow suit in November. One thing we know for sure: the Tea Party movement has been underestimated since its inception and Democrats' smugness today could spell doom tomorrow. From here on out, nothing should surprise us.

Contact George Leon at george_h_leon@yahoo.com

Photo of Christine O'Donnell from voices.washingtonpost.com