The insurgent Tea Party movement has snuck up and scored another major victory against the Republican Party. They’re proving public anger is directed towards more than just the party in power. It’s directed at anyone associated with the political establishment.
Christine O’Donnell beat veteran politician Mike Castle for the Republican Senate nomination from the state of Delaware. He’d been a popular governor and member of Congress for decades.
Speaking on NBC’s Today show the morning after her win, O’Donnell said, “It’s a shame I think a few people got their pride bruised last night a few of the so-called experts proved that once again they were wrong. This is a very unpredictable political season where anything goes. But the folks are craving candidates who are willing to stand for something.”
Polls two weeks before the Primary show Castle with a comfortable lead. But in the last days of the race, with endorsements from major Tea Party leaders like Sarah Palin and money from the national Tea Party Express, O’Donnell surged ahead and went on to win.
Castle is the latest in a series of established Republicans to fall to the Tea Party insurgency this year. They’re capitalizing on the Republican Party’s defeat in 2008 to try to reshape it. But many Tea Party candidates will have a much harder time getting elected than established Republicans because they’re upsetting the party’s core supporters and are often political novices.
And though Delaware is a small state on the East Coast of the United States, the Tea Party influence has national implications for both the Republican Party. Neither the state Republican Party nor the national Republican Party seems inclined to throw their full support behind her. How they deal with O’Donnell and her supporters will shape the future of the Party in this election and the 2012 Presidential Election.
One of Delaware’s most popular campaign events is the Peach Festival held in early August. I went and met both Castle and his Democratic opponent Chris Coons on the stump. O’Donnell didn’t show up, but a few of her supporters did. One of them told me he was supporting O’Donnell because Castle voted too often with the Democrats. He said O’Donnell is “a staunch supporter of the Constitution.”
Democrats however, are ecstatic. O’Donnell’s victory increases their chances of holding onto the Senate. Republicans were counting on picking up Delaware because they had a strong candidate – Mike Castle. O’Donnell isn’t a candidate who can appeal to the wider electorate in this heavily Democratic state.
O’Donnell’s supporters don’t seem to mind that she has a slim chance of winning in November. For them, the message is more important than the victory – they want a different kind of Republican Party.
Castle’s embarrassing defeat is a double whammy for the Republicans. He gave up his safe seat in the House of Representatives to run for the Senate. Castle was one of the last of what seems like a dying breed – a Republican who isn’t an ideologue. Now a Democrat is poised to take his House seat.
Tuesday marked the last of the major Party Primary nominating contests. Almost all of the races are set. Both Republicans and Democrats now have to reformulate their strategies to figure out how to deal with Tea Party candidates and the public anger with government that spawned them.