Christine O’Donnell Wins: Tea Party Revolt Topples The Delaware GOP

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It’s hard to try to put this one in perspective. There may never have been a losing primary candidate more favored by his state and national party than Mike Castle. The chairman of the state GOP, Tom Ross, worked as a virtual spokesman for the Castle campaign, leading the attack against Christine O’Donnell. The RNC was officially backing Castle, after the state party requested its support. Castle has been a player in Delaware Republican politics since 1966. He is a giant. A titan, as one political science professor in the state told me. He had more than $2 million in the bank for the general, and O’Donnell has basically squat. And this is Delaware. The Northeast.

Add to that the fact that Castle appears to have exceeded his own turnout targets. Ross said he expected about 40,000 to turnout for the primary. Castle got 27,000 votes and still lost, because O’Donnell got more than 30,000 Republicans to come to the polls for her. This is a nothing less than a full-blown intra-party rebellion. The state party leadership has lost the confidence of its voting membership for being too moderate. In. The. Northeast.

It is too late for Castle to run on a different line, but he can still run a write-in campaign, and he has a good shot at winning. He remains enormously popular in the state. But he would need significant Independent and even Democratic support, and that might not be forthcoming in such a heated election season. The only other example of a U.S. Senator winning election in a write in campaign was in 1954, when Strom Thurmond upset the Democratic establishment in South Carolina. Thurmond rode a wave of anger after the state party decided to forgo a primary after the chosen candidate died and just appoint his replacement. In that election 143,444 people wrote in Thurmond’s name. It was a crazy time. It is a crazy time again.

UPDATE: “I still have some time in office,” Castle said in his concession speech. “My thanks again to all of you.” Doesn’t sound like he is mounting a write in campaign.