DOVER, Delaware -- Christine O'Donnell did not merely defeat Mike Castle in Tuesday's Senate primary. She beat the Republican establishment, both nationally and in Delaware, and she beat a veritable army of naysayers who said she couldn't do it.
O'Donnell also beat a vicious negative attack campaign into which her Republican opponents dumped every bit of trash they could find. Yet this had no apparent effect on the Tea Party-backed, Sarah Palin-endorsed candidate, who won with 53 percent of the vote to Castle's 47 percent. Her little-known Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, can't possibly hit O'Donnell with anything worse than she got from the GOP establishment. And despite all of it, she managed to be magnanimous in victory.
Asked about news reports that the National Republican Senatorial Committee would not support her in the general election campaign, O'Donnell said: "For the greater good, we're putting this all behind us. Together, we can win."
Some of O'Donnell's supporters were not in such a forgiving mood, especially toward Republican strategist Karl Rove, who disparaged the Delaware GOP nominee on Sean Hannity's Fox News program. "Might as well have been [Keith] Olbermann on MSNBC," Michelle Malkin wrote on her popular blog.
The essence of the establishment's criticism O'Donnell is that she is a "flawed" candidate who can't win in November. Unfortunately for the establishment, their credibility was shattered when O'Donnell won the primary. Rove and the rest of them did all they could to beat her, and it wasn't enough.
Among other things, according to local Tea Party activists, Rove tried to get Delaware 9/12 Patriots leader Russ Murphy to support Castle. "Rove tried to hustle [Murphy] and Russ wasn't going for it," said Doug Campbell, an activist who is running as a third-party challenger to Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (against whom the state GOP is not fielding a candidate).
Despite the fusillade of establishment attacks, the Tea Party movement stood strong behind O'Donnell, as did Palin, Malkin, Hannity, radio talk-show host Mark Levin and of course Rush Limbaugh, blogger Dan Riehl, and The American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord. And the result in Delaware -- whose motto is "The First State," as it was first to ratify the Constitution -- is revolutionary. As workers cleaned up late Tuesday night at the Elks Lodge here that hosted O'Donnell's victory celebration, longtime state GOP activist Vance Phillips said: "This changes everything."
Certainly, Tuesday's result will change the go-along-to-get-along bipartisan strategy of the Delaware Republican Party, whose chairman Tom Ross publicly declared that O'Donnell "could not be elected dog catcher." But Castle couldn't even win the primary that Ross and the GOP establishment tried to hand him on a silver platter.
In her victory speech, O'Donnell said, "The people of Delaware have spoken. No more politics as usual."
Of course, not all of the people have yet spoken. Turnout was unusually high in this year's primary, but O'Donnell's Tuesday total of more than 30,000 votes will have to be increased if she is to win in November. However, as one staffer said, their own polls indicate that independent voters -- who couldn't vote in the closed GOP primary -- favor O'Donnell over the Democrats' little-known nominee, Chris Coons.
With seven weeks remaining until Election Day, O'Donnell's supporters seemed confident that she will once again defy the predictions of pollsters and pundits to win Nov. 2. If so, it will be more than a victory for one candidate in one state. As the Tea Party activist Campbell said: "We the people are taking it back, one election at a time."
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