You may have seen my recent post titled Why Michael Castle is not the Next Lisa Murkowskiwhere I proceeded to talk about why Michael Castle (R) would win the Delaware Senatorial primary. Lisa Murkowski (R) was the establishment candidate in Alaska and Joe Miller (R) came from behind with Palin's endorsement to win. Castle has never lost an election in Delaware and he has held statewide office for 30 years including holding Delaware's U.S House seat since 1992. He was running for Ted Kaufman's (D) open Senate seat. The Democratic candidate, Chris Coons (D) from Newcastle county is a strong candidate but was losing to Castle in the polls. Most pundits predicted Castle would just have a small primary against teabagger Christine O' Donnell (R) and then continue holding statewide office. Most pundits also believed that Delaware was too moderate. O' Donnell had already run statewide and lost to Joe Biden (D) in 2008 by about 30 points, losing every county including conservative Sussex County. Even last Friday when Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint (R) and the Tea Party Express endorsed O' Donnell, most pundits predicted a Castle win. The PPP poll last Sunday showed O' Donnell ahead by 3, the only sign of the future results. PPP has a reputation for being nearly spot on in the primaries. Most Democrats are overjoyed with O' Donnell's 53%-47% win, not because they like her positions (she is extremely conservative.) Most polls show her losing to Coons and a recent Rasmussen poll showed her down by 11. Unless Coons makes a major gaffe or has a major scandal, this race is basically his to lose. Although it is pretty clear who will win, the question I will answer is why did all the tea party figures and organizations succeed in Delaware which is supposed to be a moderate state?
Surges happen often in politics. In the 2008 primary between Clinton and Obama, surges happened in almost every state. The pattern was that Clinton would lead until two weeks before the election when Obama tied the race. Then four days before the election, the tide would turn and Clinton would get the lead. This was due to voters who went to one candidate after a big momentum bounce but as the momentum faded, the voters shifted back to the original candidate. I have seen too many races this year that prove the coming home factor is not strong. For example, the establishment candidate in Kentucky Trey Grayson (R) was down in the polls and voters did not come home to him. For Castle, pundits thought it would be different because he is so entrenched in Delaware. They predicted voters would realize they were actually saying no to Castle so they change their minds quickly. O' Donnell's surge though happened four days before the election which was late enough before voters would realize they were voting against Castle. Besides the money from the teabaggers, O'Donnell also won over voters by portraying herself as an outsider so voters viewed her as the candidate who will "take our country back" instead of the candidate who will "take our country back to the extremists."
The second reason is that Delaware is a closed primary which means only Republicans can vote in it, instead of Independents and Democrats. Although most voters in the Republican primaries are Republicans, Independents can make a big difference often. When McCain ran for President in 2000, he stayed in the race for awhile because he attracted Independents in the Republican Primaries. In the 2008 Republican primaries, McCain's appeal to Independents gave him the early momentum which gave him the nomination. In Delaware, Castle was leading the polls against Coons because Castle appealed to Independents. If Castle had realized O'Donnell would be a formidable challenger, he could have run a campaign to get Independents to register as Republicans before the registration deadline. However, Castle did not and may have believed he would win because he has never lost an election before. Even if Delaware's Republicans were more moderate, he may have won which leads to the third reason he lost.
Delaware's Republicans are too conservative for Castle. Wait, Delaware is a Northeast State so the Republicans are supposed to be moderates, right? Although there are definitely are moderate Republicans in northeastern states like New Jersey and Connecticut, Delaware is a little different. Yes, Newcastle County (Wilmington) is basically a suburb of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia suburbs are known for moderate Republicans. Delaware though also is culturally a southern state outside of the Philadelphia suburbs. It is on the Delmarva peninsula which has very conservative whites and most of them are religious. The two southern counties in Delaware are Kent and Sussex Counties which are also fast growing. Sussex County is infamous for not letting a Jewish girl speak about her religion at her graduation speech. Although Newcastle County has about 62% of Delaware's population, Newcastle County is more Democratic than the rest of the state. Therefore, Newcastle County cast about half of the Republican primary votes last Tuesday. Even if the Republicans in southern Delaware were conservative, how did O'Donnell pick up enough votes in Newcastle County to prevent Castle's margin there from carrying him to victory? In 2006 and 2008, Democrats made major gains in the Northeast with elected offices but also convinced many moderate Republicans to become Democrats because of Bush's unpopularity and the Republican image of extreme evangelical Christians. With many moderate Republicans gone, the Republican party has become more conservative. Yes, Castle had the votes to win but those voters could not vote in his primary.
Overall, Castle lost because this was a real surge, Independents could not cross over and the Republican party in Delaware has become too conservative. Many pundits have suggested that the Republican party was becoming more conservative because of all the Independents moving to the Democrats two years ago. This could explain why the Independents now are leaning more towards the Republicans because those voters are going back to their original voting habits. They just have not changed their registration yet. The Republican party needs to convince these voters to return to the Republican party or the Republicans will continue to nominate extremists candidates like Christine O'Donnell.
What do you think about the recent events in the Delaware Senate race? Please feel free to share your thoughts.