Sen. Jim DeMint declared that Christine O’Donnell lost because Republicans “so maligned her … that she didn’t have a chance.” This is both self-serving and false.
DeMint and Sarah Palin went to bat for O’Donnell, helping to fuel Tea Party enthusiasm for the hard-line novice. If anything, DeMint et. al so maligned Rep. Mike Castle (whose voting record reflected his tenuous position as the representative of a liberal state) that he didn’t have a chance in the primary.
This was shortsighted and ultimately cost the GOP a Senate seat. Long before Karl Rove dared to point out that she was an unelectable candidate, polls showed her far behind Chris Coons. It was hardly skeptical Republicans who did her in. Exit polls showed that 44 percent of the electorate was Democratic in Delaware. O’Donnell got a grand total of 9 percent of that group. Among Republicans, who comprised 30 percent of the electorate, O’Donnell got a respectable but not impressive 81 percent of the vote. She lost narrowly among independent voters (48-45 percent).
In sum, in a Blue State, O’Donnell had virtually no appeal with the largest segment of the electorate. It is important for Republicans to be clear on the facts and learn the correct lesson if they want to prevail in 2012. They need to know the makeup of the electorate in presidential races and consider whether a Christine O’Donnell–like figure — or a Jim DeMint one — is really the best approach to recapturing the White House.