Read Jonathan Chait

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 15 2010 9:21 AM

Read Jonathan Chait

He's more red team/blue team than I'd be here, but he gets this right about the Delaware upset .

Now, most elite Republicans understand that the red meat fed to thebase isn't exactly right. It's useful to scare the daylights out of theactivists, but writers for the Standard and the Journal editorialpage understand that "freedom," as most people understand the term, isnot really at risk. They understand as well that politics is a littlemore complicated than "if Republicans stay true to conservatism, theycannot lose."

But the conservative base is not in on the joke. And so Republicanelites found themselves with just a few frantic days to undo the toxicand intoxicating effects of 20 months of relentless propaganda. Votefor the man who compromised with evil! The true conservative can'talways win! They couldn't do it.

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Now, there are some O'Donnell supporters, like Ed Morrissey at HotAir, who decided that it was more important to punish a liberal Republican than to win a Senate seat. And there is some strategy there. There are bank shots in Connecticut and West Virginia that could hand conservatives down-the-line votes in the Senate, instead of the compromise votes that Mike Castle was promising to cast.

But let's go back to Monday, when Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks declined to endorse O'Donnell. They were only joining The Weekly Standard, Matt Lewis, and a bunch of other conservative elites who looked at the raw politics and said it wasn't worth boosting a Tea Party candidate if she was so flawed that she couldn't win. But how could conservative voters be convinced that O'Donnell's messy financial history and misstatements made her unacceptable when they'd been told, by these same people, that Sarah Palin's flubs were just evidence that the media was unfair to her.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.