The headline I would've run was "Delaware Democrat Wins Senate Race Months Early." Tea Party activists managed to elbow out moderate Republican Mike Castle to advance Christine O'Donnell as the Republican nominee fill to replace Joe Biden's vacated Senate seat. But Politico's headline was close enough; "GOP nightmare: O'Donnell prevails."
The Republican Party backed Castle, conservative outlets like the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Weekly Standard begged Delaware Republicans to nominate Castle, but the teabaggers were bound and determined to nominate a bona fide lunatic. They've had enough of politics as usual, which apparently means considering politics at all, and have nominated a woman who can't possibly win -- because she's not a "RINO." As a result, the slim chance Republicans had of taking control of the Senate just got a lot slimmer.
[Jason Easley, Politicususa:]
Before everyone starts jumping off the cliff over Christine O'Donnell's victory, here are a few things to keep in mind. First, Christine O'Donnell is not popular in Delaware. According to recent Rasmussen survey, O'Donnell has an approval rating problem. More votes disapprove of O'Donnell (44%) than approve of her (39%). In contrast, the man she defeated Mike Castle has a 67% approval rating. O'Donnell's November opponent Chris Coons has a 49% approval rating. In short, the people of Delaware are very familiar with Christine O'Donnell and they don't like her.
Secondly, Mike Castle was a lock to win this seat. Castle is a moderate Republican in a solidly Blue State. He is a well known and liked figure in the state, but he is not well liked by the Tea Party element of the GOP. Mike Castle did not pass the Tea Party purity test, and this is why he lost. According to the model done by Nate Silver's Five Thirty Eight, Castle had a 95% chance of winning in November, but the odds of the GOP winning the seat with Christine O'Donnell as the nominee have sunk to 16%. By nominating O'Donnell the Tea Party sliced the GOP's odds of winning the Senate almost in half from 30% to 16%.
Now that she's the nominee, O'Donnell must close a double-digit gap -- 11% from Rasmussen and 26% from Public Policy Polling -- between herself and Democratic nominee Chris Coons. In short, the only way O'Donnell can pull this out is if Coons is caught in bed with a monkey. And maybe not even then -- O'Donnell's existing perceptual problems are almost monkey-in-the-bed bad already. According to Easley, "Only 31% of voters think O'Donnell is qualified to hold office, and 44% of Castle's voters will be backing the Democrat Coons." Her statewide approval is a dismal 29%.
Who can Republicans blame for this fiasco? Only themselves. After months and months of telling insane lies, they're getting candidates who are the ultimate representation of all those lies -- the gullible fools and lunatics who believe them.
"[M]ost elite Republicans understand that the red meat fed to the base isn't exactly right," writes Jonathan Chait. "It's useful to scare the daylights out of the activists, but writers for the Standard and the Journal editorial page understand that 'freedom,' as most people understand the term, is not really at risk. They understand as well that politics is a little more complicated than 'if Republicans stay true to conservatism, they cannot lose.'
"But the conservative base is not in on the joke. And so Republican elites found themselves with just a few frantic days to undo the toxic and intoxicating effects of 20 months of relentless propaganda. Vote for the man who compromised with evil! The true conservative can't always win! They couldn't do it."
And this foreshadows a problem that Republicans face two years from now. The Senate's now a nearly lost cause and whether or not the Republicans take the House is a little irrelevant to 2012. If they do, they'll face vetoes they won't have the votes to override. The world will have failed to be changed in one fell swoop. And the current lack of enthusiasm among voters other than Republicans will cost them, as ideologically driven nutjobs face non-wingnut voters who don't exactly share their ideology -- an ideology these candidates will have spent the last two years demonstrating, politics be damned.
If they don't take the House, the wingnuts will get even crazier, the conspiracy theories about stolen elections will fly, and a party that's already a hothouse for crackpots will become even more ridiculous and insane. The base will either rebel or crumble, splitting the vote in races all over the country or not showing up at all.
Either way, the GOP's status quo cannot be sustained. The future of the Republican Party is being revealed to us in Delaware and it's hard to see a way for the party to avoid it.
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