GOP moans about losing chance to take control of Senate with Castle defeat

posted at 8:48 am on September 15, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Last week, when trying to keep irrational exuberance in check about the likelihood of taking control of the House, Republicans warned that they might fall short of winning 39 seats in a 435-seat election.  Suddenly, in the wake of the rejection of Mike Castle by Delaware Republicans, party officials now want to say that Christine O’Donnell has ruined their chances of netting nine seats in a 35-seat election.  Politico’s Jonathan Martin reports on the supposed sad wreck of the grand design:

Christine O’Donnell’s surprise victory in the Delaware Senate GOP primary Tuesday left Republicans in conflict, senior party officials openly fretting that the Senate is now out of reach and Democrats overjoyed that the opposition has handed them a late and desperately needed chance to reframe the national argument about the 2010 elections.

Aside from the political implications of the upset, the outcome prompted a round of deep Republican soul-searching about what it said about their party when a political pillar in Delaware like Rep. Mike Castle, a respected lawmaker who was considered a shoo-in for the Senate seat, could not even come within six points of defeating the controversial and still largely unknown O’Donnell. …

In the wake of Tuesday’s results, a state that would have almost certainly been a pick-up for the GOP is now likely to stay with the Democrats, making it more difficult for Republicans to win the 10 seats necessary to take back control of the Senate.

“We were looking at 8 to 9 seats in the Senate, we are now looking at 7 to 8 in my opinion,” said a visibly-unhappy Karl Rove on Fox News after the race was called for O’Donnell Tuesday night. “This is not a race we’re going to be able to win.” …

“This makes the road much steeper for Republicans to win back the Senate because this was a seat they had counted on,” said former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), a former House campaign committee chairman.

Oh, please.  Politics relies in part on setting expectations.  That’s what Republicans tried doing last week when tamping down predictions of a wave of 60, 70, or even more House seats switching.  Now suddenly they’re distraught over the prospects of picking up nine seats in the Senate — when three months ago, a pickup of five or six seats would have been welcomed as a major gain and a way to ensure a Republican presence large enough to force Democrats to come to the table.

My advice to the GOP would be to quit whining about losing a long-shot bid to win control of the Senate and focus on actually winning the races.  In fact, the odds of winning control of the upper chamber didn’t actually decline all that much, because they were small to begin with.  Just a few days ago, John Cornyn told a reporter that Democrats would keep control of the Senate through 2012, when Democrats have to defend a lot more seats than the GOP.

The better question on which to focus is in Martin’s second paragraph.  What does Mike Castle’s crash and burn among Delaware Republicans say about their party organization?  After all, we have heard oodles of commentary about how Delaware Republicans are moderates who might get energized by the Tea Party but supposedly aren’t looking for conservative candidates.  Instead, they convinced Castle to leave a relatively safe House seat instead of looking for someone who hadn’t backed a government takeover of the energy sector in cap-and-trade (in a coal-dependent region!) and co-sponsored the DISCLOSE Act.  Perhaps had the GOP establishment listened a little more carefully to Delaware Republicans, who turned out relatively heavily in this election, they wouldn’t find themselves crying in their lattes this morning.

They stuck with a liberal, establishment candidate in a cycle where liberals and establishment figures are uniquely unpopular.  Had the Republican leadership been in touch with Delaware Republican voters, they might have found a more suitable candidate for the popular mood, and would not have had to deal with Christine O’Donnell and her outsider bid.  They have no one to blame but themselves.

Instead of pouting, Republican leaders in Delaware and around the country need to unite around the nominee, who was chosen by the Republicans in Delaware.  Had Castle won the nomination, they would have demanded unity themselves, and rightly so.   If they want to continue to issue snarky, anonymous asides and in essence take their ball and go home, don’t expect the electorate to follow them into battle in the future.  Rarely have I seen such childishness from the supposed leaders of a political establishment, who set the very rules and customs they now want to ignore because they just got embarrassed on a national stage.

Grow up, shut up, and get to work.

Update: Kevin McCullough agrees:

Mike Castle, if he is a man of loyalty to the party he wished to represent should hold fundraisers for O’Donnell beginning next week. Lisa Murkowski should follow suit in Alaska for Joel Miller. And Sue Bowden should be doing the same for Sharron Angle in Nevada.

In other words if “establishment” candidates are willing to give anything more than lip service to the party they wished to represent, then they should be willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of campaigning for someone they disagree with on issues. And they should do so remembering they are in it for the greater good. …

We were told that in the end having a majority with an (R) after their name was the best thing of all.  Well, I see no reason why that statement can’t hold true when a genuine Republican conservative wins a primary.

Update II: Glenn Reynolds interviews Scott Rasmussen on the Tea Party and its impact on the GOP and the two-party system.  Maybe Republican leadership should pay close attention.


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