I refrained from being critical of Christine O’Donnell after she won the DE primary because a) she was the nominee at that point and b) if elected, she would vote better than Chris Coons, the bearded Marxist whom the Democrats nominated. But the election is over, so I have to get this off my chest and O’Donnell’s latest hit, that the Republicans didn’t supporter her because of “bruised egos,” is ridiculous.
Which isn’t to say that bruised egos may not be involved at all. It’s politics — egos are always part of the story somewhere. I don’t have insider knowledge of the DE GOP and haven’t heard anything directly from the NRSC on the subject. But when push comes to shove, parties generally put the ego stuff aside and pour in the resources — if the candidate that they’re backing looks like a winner. And sorry to say, O’Donnell never looked like a winner to me. She just didn’t.
I’ll tell you my impression of her the first time I saw her interviewed on Fox. She reminded me of Debra Medina, the perennial GOP candidate here in Texas who seems conservative at first glance, but spends her time trashing fellow Republicans who hold real offices and responsibilities, when she’s not threatening to sue her own party. In interviews, Medina gives the air of almost knowing what she’s talking about … but not quite. That’s how O’Donnell struck me as a first impression. That was around the time of the primary, but she hadn’t won yet.
Except for Medina’s Truther tendencies, of course. O’Donnell thankfully carries none of that insanity. She’s worlds better than Medina, all tolled, but that really isn’t saying much.
It wasn’t just O’Donnell’s lawsuit against her former employer, the conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute, that reminded me of Medina though. It was the way she, on the one hand, didn’t handle herself all that impressively, while on the other hand she kept giving off the vibe of a righteous martyr for the cause, the cause being Christine O’Donnell. She keeps on giving off that vibe, and the media is happy to string her along as long as she’s trashing her party. Again, there’s a hint of Medina in there. And it’s tiresome.
But I didn’t trash O’Donnell at the time, or ever after, because by the time I was paying any attention at all to that race, she was the nominee. There wasn’t any point to piling on, and I hoped she’d find a way to win. I even suggested that the DE GOP needed to get over the Castle loss and either find a way to work with O’Donnell, or resign and give way to others who would work with her. That’s because the facts on the ground spoke for themselves: The state GOP had bet big in the primary and lost. That is, incidentally, why state parties and entities like the NRSC shouldn’t get so deeply involved in primaries. The potential for blowback is just too great. Like in Florida, where the NRSC-backed candidate ended up leaving the GOP and conspiring against its nominee, who only happens to be one of the most stellar Republicans of his generation.
But back to O’Donnell. She didn’t lose because of anything the RNC or NRSC did or didn’t do. She didn’t lose because of their “bruised egos.” Those entities, faced with a battle board going hot all over the country, had to decide where and how to spend precious resources. A timely move here or there could make the difference, and it’s a judgment call as to where the resources go. O’Donnell just never looked like a viable statewide candidate, and I’ll tell you why. When you look for candidates to recruit or back as a party, you look for a few basic criteria. Does the candidate have a connection to his or her district or state that makes them an obvious or potential leader? Do they have anything in their background that makes for a good story or narrative for the campaign? Do they have a network they can rely on to back them, fund them, and propel them? Do they seem like they will be a solid standard bearer for your party’s ideals, especially if they’re at the top of your ticket as O’Donnell was in Delaware? Do they seem like they know what they’re talking about?
Does any of that describe Christine O’Donnell? The last one, yes, some of the time, and especially the more interviews she did. She got better at it as she gained confidence, though, in my opinion, she still hasn’t demonstrated command in the way that a solid candidate does. And as a conservative, she’d make a decent candidate, but a standard bearer at the top of a statewide ticket? Eh, I’m not so sure. And how about the rest? She tried the “anti-establishment candidate” narrative, but that blows up once you realize that she was the party’s nominee in 2006. The “party faithful” narrative gets nuked when you realize that in the way that the DE GOP does business, she’s the Lisa Murkowski there to some extent: Castle won the nomination the way it’s usually done, at the party convention.
So in my opinion, no, I don’t see O’Donnell as a strong candidate. She doesn’t have a hook other than being attractive and being Not Liberal Mike Castle or Leftist Chris Coons. Her own network turned against her for some reason. She didn’t strike me as a statewide winner. She didn’t strike me as a leader. And I don’t have an ego in that fight at all, so bruises have nothing to do with anything.
Chris Coons doesn’t strike me as a leader either, by the way. He’s an awful, stiff, far far left candidate. Unfortunately, that last fact is a bonus in Delaware.
Look, if I had been living in Delaware Nov 2, I would have voted for O’Donnell without hesitation, if not without some reservation. She would have been a better senator than Coons. There’s no question about that.
But she needs to stop pretending that everyone else is the reason she lost. She lost because she was a weak candidate with a lot of baggage running in an unfriendly state. There are probably a few races that the GOP left on the table on Tuesday, but hers isn’t one of them.