It is a big night for the Tea Party — and, very likely, the Democratic Party — in my former home state of Delaware: Christine O’Donnell beat out Michael Castle for the Delaware GOP Senate nomination 53% to 47%.
It’s an amazing result given the history of Delaware politics. The contrast couldn’t be more stark. Mike Castle is a very popular politician statewide, and he has been in office for decades. Like Bill Roth, Joe Biden, and Tom Carper, he is a politician that Delaware general election voters decided they liked and were happy to keep reelecting pretty much forever. In contrast, O’Donnell has been a considered a bit of a comic figure in Delaware politics. Just two years ago, she ran unopposed for the opportunity to lose to Biden in the Delaware Senate race and was trounced 65% to 35% in the general election. And since then, it has been increasingly clear that she has, um, personal integrity issues.
But the voters have spoken, and the message seems clear enough. Given Castle’s popularity statewide, and O’Donnell’s lack thereof, this seems to be a case of Delaware GOP primary voters deciding that they would rather very likely lose the general election with a candidate that they identify with than very likely win with a candidate too moderate for their tastes.
UPDATE: I’m reminded of this very funny Mike Castle appearance on the Colbert Report. Worth watching.
ANOTHER UPDATE: In the comment thread, Leo Marvin raises the significant possibility that O’Donnell supporters see O’Donnell as a viable candidate in the general election. That’s certainly possible, and I should have made that clearer in the post. In support of that hypothesis, there’s a very interesting poll result from an April poll of Tea Party enthusiasts in which they were asked this question:
Do you think the views of the people involved in the Tea Party movement generally reflect the views of most Americans, or not?
84% answered “yes,” and only 8% said “no.” (see page 32)