I certainly am not a political expert, but several people have emailed to ask what I think about the GOP nomination fight for Biden’s seat in Delaware. So here’s some amateur punditry indicating why I am reasonably happy about the “sure thing” GOP candidate losing last night to a “Tea Party” insurgent.
1. Republicans often can do more damage than Democrats. Big government GOPers are toxic, not just because they vote with the left for more statism, but also because they give a bipartisan veneer to bad policy. The Democrats, for instance, desperately want to lure some Republicans into supporting higher taxes. They know that a budget summit agreement creates a win-win situation. They get (at least on paper) more money to spend, and they get Republicans to cut their own throats in terms of electoral appeal. Castle is the type of Republican who would get easily tricked into selling out taxpayers in this fashion.
2. Political consultants are wrong to think that moderates make the most effective candidates. That may be true in some circumstances, but there are two factors suggesting this is not a good rule to follow. First, elections often are driven by turnout, and conservative/small government candidates often generate more enthusiasm than middle-of-the-road squishes. Second, elections generally are not decided by two candidates fighting over the “median voter.” Instead, the deciding factor is whether candidate A or candidate B succeeds in making the election revolve around wedge issues that put their opponent on the wrong side of the electorate. As such, it’s quite possible for O’Donnell to win, particularly given the national mood. Remember, Jimmy Carter’s people wanted to run against Reagan, who they thought would be another Goldwater. History showed that Reagan’s strong principles were a big benefit to his campaign.
3. My main point is that nobody, regardless of ideology, should give money to party committees. The Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee (as well as their Democratic counterparts) are bloated, inefficient, and intellectually vacuous. The NRSC, in particular, wins this year’s prize for being the most ineffectual party committee. Heck, this may be the most incompetent performance in modern political history. Here’s a blurb from a column in the Washington Examiner.
O’Donnell isn’t the central issue. The central issue was the Republican Party. Insiders have so consistently made it difficult for conservative candidates (and their supporters), this result shouldn’t be all that surprising. They did it to themselves. How toxic have they made this environment, that the grassroots of their own party rejects anything they do? The NRSC has created its own backlash, for example, by once supporting politically disastrous Florida Gov. Charlie Crist over conservative favorite Marco Rubio, or going to bat for Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski over conservative military vet Joe Miller. It’s what therapists call a “broken relationship.” Those who believe the Buckley rule, that conservatives should vote for the “rightward-most viable candidate,” know that the the party establishment rarely followed it. If it had, it might have been taken seriously when addressing O’Donnell’s shortcomings. Instead, party leaders are beginning to find that people are refusing to follow, not in preference for another leader, but out of disdain for the status quo. They don’t care to win at any cost. They just don’t want to be stuck with someone they think is a loser.
P.S. Mike Castle apparently refuses to endorse Christine O’Donnell. A sore loser and a squish is not a very appealing combination.