The Conservative Establishment Versus Christine O'Donnell

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 8 2010 12:02 PM

The Conservative Establishment Versus Christine O'Donnell

The Wall Street Journal continues the white-shoe assault on Delaware U.S. Senate hopeful Christine O'Donnell, telling her supporters to wise up and back Mike Castle.

A two-time loser statewide, Ms. O'Donnell has a history offinancial troubles and recently told the Weekly Standard her home andoffice were vandalized, though she hadn't reported it to police. Sherecently accused a conservative local talk radio host that he had been"paid off" by Mr. Castle's supporters after he asked her toughquestions.

So GOP primary voters must decide if they want tovote for Mr. Castle, a moderate who would help Republicans organize theSenate and who opposed ObamaCare but who will give them heartburn onsome issue in the future. Or they can vote their heart even if it meansgiving up a Senate seat.

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What's interesting here is the reliance on The Weekly Standard* to make the case that O'Donnell is a nut. (Also, fun fact: Pete DuPont, under whom Castle served as lieutenant governor, is a monthly columnist for the WSJ, although he doesn't weigh in on editorials.) As I noted in my profile of this race , the Standard's brutal interview with O'Donnell was literally front page news in Delaware. It was key to a 72-hour campaign to get influential conservatives not to support O'Donnell the way they supported Joe Miller. With some exceptions (like Tammy Bruce and Mark Levin) it worked. And I think the WSJ editorial explains why. The partisan stakes in Alaska seemed low, because as far as anyone knew any Republican could hold the Senate seat. The partisan stakes in other races with candidates or campaigns who bungle their interviews are clear -- back the Republican or the Democrat wins. In Delaware, the choice is between an electable moderate who can get the party closer to control of the Senate and a Tea Party candidate who possibly can't.

This is the big difference between Delaware and, say, New Hampshire, where the local Union Leader has endorsed a rival of NRSC favorite Kelly Ayotte (who, it should be said, has nothing in her record suggesting she's as moderate as Castle) and opened up a real debate about who conservatives should support. The key there is that most polls show Democrat Paul Hodes losing to everyone.

*I originally misidentified the WS as a NewsCorp property, but it was sold to Clarity Media in 2009.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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