Commentary Magazine


The GOP Supports Christine O’Donnell

John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, came out in support of GOP candidate Christine O’Donnell. His statement can be found here.

This was a smart thing for Senator Cornyn to do. Here’s the reason: whatever one felt about the O’Donnell-Castle contest, it is now over. And if the NRSC was seen to be indifferent to O’Donnell’s fate, or as actively undermining her, it would have been terrible destructive to the Republican Party. It would have been viewed as a virtual declaration of war by some conservatives and Tea Party activists.

In the wake of the O’Donnell upset, some Republicans will be tempted to turn on the Tea Party movement; others will amplify their existing concerns and criticisms. Bill Kristol’s observations are worth bearing in mind in this regard. Bill opposed O’Donnell — but he makes this salient point:

Tea Party activism, enthusiasm and, yes, rebelliousness have been, on net, a very good thing for the GOP. Now in politics as in life, there can be, on occasions, too much of a good thing. Thus Delaware. But it’s still much, much better to be the party to which independents and new voters are flocking, and in which activists are energized, than not. And it’s better for the GOP, as the out party, that the anti-establishment and anti-incumbent wave is still building (which it clearly is) rather than ebbing. A year ago, the liberal media hoped tea partiers were going to generate suicidal third-party challenges, scare off independents from the Republicans, and generally destroy the Republican party. It turns out they’ve probably cost the GOP one Senate seat on the way to a huge off-year election victory. It’s a small price to pay.

In 2008, obituaries were being written about the GOP. In just 20 months, it has engineered a remarkable political comeback. The Tea Party movement is responsible for much, though certainly not all, of that success. But the Tea Party movement clearly does not view itself as an adjunct of any political party; it prides itself on its independence and its outsider status. Many of its members are deeply distrustful of the political establishment — including the Republican Party. Those concerns were exacerbated by the O’Donnell-Castle contest, which got quite nasty near the end. Senator Cornyn understood that if that breach wasn’t healed, and soon, the GOP would pay a high price. Which explains why last night’s reports that the NRSC would abandon Christine O’Donnell turned into a warm embrace this morning.

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