RE: A Whole Lot Harder

Charlie Cook (subscription required) wastes no time:

Marketing consultant Christine O’Donnell’s upset of Rep. Mike Castle in last night’s Republican primary puts this open seat, which should have been an easy pick up for the GOP, out of their reach. While the primary provided Democrats with enough fodder to bury O’Donnell, from her personal finances to dubious claims she made in a lawsuit against a former employer, the reality is that Delaware is a Democratic-leaning state where Democrats have a 17-point advantage over Republicans in voter registration. Democrats also have a strong candidate in New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, who saw his fortunes turn 180 degrees over the course of a few hours last night.

The Tea Party’s enthusiasm has contributed to wins by figures like Scott Brown, a candidate who is about as conservative as you can get and still be viable in Massachusetts. Success in electoral politics is not measured by whether you win primaries but rather by your track record in the general election. The former shows you are an influence in the party; the latter that you are a positive influence. When better candidates who are equally or more viable in the general race are substituted for worse ones (e.g., Joe Miller for Lisa Murkowski), that is something to crow about. But simply getting a sliver of your own base very excited at the expense of a broader appeal is nothing to be proud of — unless the point is to annoy the Republican establishment, not to win elections and influence the country’s agenda.

In November we’ll see whether Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Rand Paul, and Joe Miller are a new group of fresh, conservative guns or footnotes in history. I suspect the results will be mixed, as is the Tea Party’s blessing.