It’s the morning after the last major round of primaries and a new political star is born in “dissident,” “little-known underdog,” and “Sarah Palin doppelganger” Christine O’Donnell. Seven states and D.C. all held primaries yesterday, but O’Donnell’s Joe Miller-like pummeling of nine-term Rep. Michael Castle in Delaware’s Republican senate primary is the result that’s got the pundits talking, the GOP squabbling, and Democrats grinning.
Today’s papers and websites are busy picking over the soggy tea leaves left from last night’s count—there goes the Republicans’ chance of taking the Senate, say most—and unnamed Republican aides are out in force pooh-poohing the Delaware Republicans who’ve so imperiled the party with their vote. But few have bothered asking those voters why they chose O’Donnell over Castle. Nary a “John Smith at polling station X says he’s voting for O’Donnell because” in sight. And if we’re going to predict and prognosticate, that’s probably as good a place to start as any of the chair-fillers on Morning Joe.
The Times’s report, which played front-page second-fiddle to a story about a more local upset—Carl Paladino’s win over Rick Lazio in the New York Republican gubernatorial primary—was an effective rundown of Tuesday night’s results. It backgrounds the Palin and DeMint endorsements, excerpts from O’Donnell’s victory speech, then draws from other results to offer the conventional wisdom:
The results on the last big night of primaries highlighted the extent to which the Tea Party movement has upended the Republican Party and underscored the volatility of the electorate seven weeks from Election Day.
In New Hampshire, another candidate with strong backing from grass-roots conservatives, Ovide Lamontagne, was locked in a tight battle with his main opponent, Kelly Ayotte, in the Republican primary for Senate.
We hear from just one voter, found not at a polling booth but a victory rally:
“I think she’s going to make it,” said Marie Bush, a supporter of Ms. O’Donnell who went to her victory rally to cheer her on. “Too many people have been slinging mud at her, and she’s a survivor.”
Asked what the candidate might do to attract independents or even Democrats, Ms. Bush said, “I think people are smart enough now to know the world we are living in is going wrong and we need people like her to make it right.”
Oddly enough, that question seems like something you should ask a pundit, and the question for the voter—why did you decide to vote for O’Donnell—remains unasked and unanswered.
Dan Balz doesn’t talk to any voters in an otherwise clear-headed and mostly effective analysis of Tuesday’s results for The Washington Post. The lede is a little jazzy-Politico for my tastes, though:
Christine O’Donnell, a “tea party”-backed long-shot candidate, stunned the Republican establishment Tuesday night by defeating nine-term Rep. Michael N. Castle in Delaware’s GOP Senate primary, one of the most shocking upsets in an already tumultuous primary season.
New midterm rule, please: refrain from using both “shocking” and “stunned,” or derivations of the two, in the one sentence, no matter how tumultuous the result.
Balz puts the O’Donnell win in the anti-Republican-establishment context:
The outcome was the latest in a string of embarrassments for the Republican establishment this year, underscoring the civil war that continues to rage in the party. Last month, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska lost her primary to political newcomer Joe Miller, who like O’Donnell had the support of Palin and tea party activists. Last spring, tea party forces defeated Sen. Robert F. Bennett of Utah at the Republican state convention.
With no voter voices, we’re instead treated to more inside-baseball stuff, with an anonymous senior Republican telling Balz “the national senatorial committee would ‘walk’ out of the Delaware race.”
Peter Wallsten and Neil King Jr. at The Wall Street Journal give a solid rundown of past Tea Party victories in Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Nevada, and offer insight into just how energized the Republican Party is this season.
Of the 30 million ballots cast in 2010 for statewide offices before Sept. 1, more than 17 million were in Republican races, while fewer than 13 million were for Democrats—the first time since 1930 that GOP voters outnumbered Democrats in midterm, statewide primaries, according to an analysis from American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate.