When to Lose

by Rich Lowry


Another note on the Delaware primary, which is fast upon us. There are obviously circumstances when conservatives should back a candidate who will be a relative long-shot. Pat Toomey in 2004 is a great example. Specter clearly had a better chance in the general, but Toomey was worth the risk, not just because Specter was so awful, but because Toomey himself was such an exemplary conservative politician. He would have been–he still is–a walking advertisement for conservatism: reasonable, serious, upstanding, deeply grounded. You could imagine Toomey changing the political landscape because he has the ability to persuade. O’Donnell will be the anti-Toomey, a conservative standard-bearer who could have been selected by a group of hostile people out to create an unflattering impression of us. To compare O’Donnell to Sharron Angle is an insult to Angle, who has her rough edges as a candidate but whose personal integrity is beyond reproach. What many O’Donnell supporters are implicitly arguing is that there can be no standards in evaluating candidates beyond an ideological litmus test–a deeply unconservative sentiment. The likes of Jim DeMint have pushed the envelope of the possible this year in red states where a Republican is almost guaranteed election and have succeeded marvelously. I guess it’s only natural that they would, in light of those successes, reach for one more, even more audacious, anti-establishment win.  

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