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Salon.com
AUGUST 31, 2010 9:00AM

Delaware Dispatch: Senate Candidate Steeped in Tea Party Dough

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The Tea Party Express, one of the major national Tea Party groups, will soon launch a $250,000 media campaign for Christine O’Donnell, a Tea Party candidate challenging longtime Congressman Mike Castle for the Delaware Republican senate nomination this fall. The primary is September 14, just two weeks away, meaning that money will likely have some serious impact on the airwaves. What does this mean for the small state (my home) and for national politics?

Mike Castle. Courtesy Castle for Senate.

First, some background; the seat is that formerly occupied by now-Vice President Joe Biden and currently occupied by Ted Kaufman, who was appointed in 2008 and never planned to run for reelection. (The state’s other senate seat has been held by former governor Tom Carper since 2000; he was reelected in 2006 with 70 percent of the vote.) Castle, 71, has served as Delaware’s sole representative in the House since 1993; prior to that he served two terms as governor. In 2008, he was reelected with 61 percent of the vote.

Christine O'Donnell with Michele Bachmann. Courtesy O'Donnell 2010.

O’Donnell, 41, was the Republican nominee against Biden in the 2008 election; she lost to him by a 30-point spread. She worked for the Republican National Committee before moving to Delaware to work for conservative publisher Intercollegiate Studies Institute; more recently she has worked as a marketing consultant and political commentator, often on Fox News.

The Democratic nominee is Chris Coons, 46, the county executive for New Castle County, the largest county in Delaware with approximately half a million residents. Coons previously clerked for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and worked for the “I Have a Dream” Foundation. Although Coons was elected handily three times, New Castle is the most liberal of Delaware’s three counties.

Eight polls conducted since October 2009 have shown Castle defeating Coons, although the Democrat has been gaining slight ground on the moderate Republican. Four polls show Coons easily beating O’Donnell in November; the most recent put Coons winning against O’Donnell 44-37 (and losing to Castle 48-35).

This new Tea Party backing for O’Donnell has the state GOP worried. In a release, after blasting her for shooting video for commercials at Saturday’s Glenn Beck rally in D.C., they trash her as dishonest and against Republican interests in the state.

O’Donnell has been cited repeatedly lying to voters and manipulating her own political history. Recently, O’Donnell has claimed that she won two out of three counties in Delaware in her 2008 race against then-Senator Joe Biden. Election results show that Biden won overwhelmingly against O’Donnell and that she did not win any counties in the state of Delaware.

Her campaign appears to be getting desperate as the Republican primary is only two weeks away. The most recent Rasmussen poll has shown her support drop by five points in only a month to 36 percent – robbing her of the talking point that she would beat Democrat Chris Coons in November.

The Republican primary is closed to Democrats and independents, and O’Donnell seems confident she can defeat the more moderate Castle in such a primary. Money-wise, even steeped in Tea Party dough O’Donnell is woefully behind Castle, who recently reported raising over $3 million for his campaign.

Everyone, the media especially, loves a surprise victory from a dark horse candidate (coughjoemillercough), so this race will certainly draw increased national interest for the next couple of weeks and likely through November.

Bonus: Far less attention has been paid to Delaware’s House race now that Castle is running for the Senate. The Democratic candidate will likely be former lieutenant governor John Carney. The Republican nomination is still largely up for grabs while two businesspeople fight out a primary. However, it may not matter; Castle largely relied on popularity and longevity to maintain his at-large House seat. Delaware has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+7, making it even more likely the seat will shift parties.


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