Delaware Republicans go to the polls today to make one of the toughest calls all year long in the primaries, and I don’t envy them a bit. Over the last few weeks, I’ve written about the horse race aspects of the Senate primary between Mike Castle and Christine O’Donnell, and both Allahpundit and I have kept up with the commentary. The talking is just about over now, and it’s time to choose.
I’m not comfortable doing “endorsements,” but after a long primary season of analyzing this and other races, I’ve been thinking about this race and how I would vote if I lived in Delaware. What makes more sense in a race that might have implications for Senate control — ideology or pragmatism? And after thinking about this particular race with all of the strengths and shortcomings of the candidates and the national implications of the race, I’d have to choose Christine O’Donnell and the message over strategy.
This isn’t to say that I think O’Donnell is a strong candidate. She has had problems in the primary, and she is almost certain to lose in the general election, barring some sort of miraculous GOTV effort by the same GOP establishment that has been openly hostile to her. But Castle is almost the reductio ad absurdum of RINOism. He didn’t vote for ObamaCare, but Castle backed cap-and-trade in the House, a vote largely overshadowed by the ObamaCare debate. Regardless of his recent claims to oppose the current Senate version of the bill, Castle still supported a massive government redistribution intrusion into the energy markets that would raise energy prices on all Americans, create inflationary pressure throughout the distribution chain, and hand the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars to pick winners and losers in “green jobs” rather than let the market make those determinations. It’s an even bigger intrusion into the markets than ObamaCare, as energy directly impacts every business transaction in the US, and it’s a baldfaced mechanism for top-down economics as the new normal.
On top of that, Castle co-sponsored the DISCLOSE Act, one of only two Republicans to do so (the bill has 112 Democratic co-sponsors), North Carolina’s Walter Jones being the other. It’s best known as the Democrats’ temper tantrum after the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision that recognized that publications critical of politicians should be especially protected from the efforts of politicians to silence them. It puts incumbency protection ahead of free speech. For those two actions, it’s more important to see Castle defeated than it is to put a Republican in the seat.
As I’ve written before, the strategic implications are significant and shouldn’t be dismissed — but neither should they be overstated. This seat matters strategically in one narrow set of circumstances, and one only: if the GOP picks up a net of exactly nine other seats. If the GOP nets eight or fewer Senate seats besides Delaware, then this election wouldn’t give them control of the Senate anyway. If the GOP picks up ten or more seats without Delaware, then this seat again doesn’t matter much either in terms of controlling the agenda. Netting enough seats to win the Senate is a long shot in any case, probably in the range of a 5-1 against, with or without Delaware.
This doesn’t mean that people can come to other honest and well-meaning conclusions about the candidates, the strategic implications, and the priority of sending a message. DocZero, for instance, went through a similar process and came to the decision to support Castle as reluctantly as I did my decision to support O’Donnell. One of the most discouraging aspects of this debate has been how quickly both sides have resorted to name-calling and demands for purges instead of an open and detailed review of the records of both candidates. As Doc puts it, had we known that admission to the “ruling class” was this easy, we’d all be taking a barony or two merely for suggesting that there were rational reasons to throw in with the man who had won several general elections in the state. All politicians are accountable for their public record, those who have served for long periods of time as well as those who want to replace them. Regardless of which candidate wins today, hopefully the GOP and the Right can put aside the bitterness and fight for as many seats as we can get in November.