What’s Wrong with the Party Leadership?

by Shannen W. Coffin

The Delaware race is a sign of the wrongheadedness of the party establishment. In the first place, the party itself shouldn’t be taking any position in a contested primary for an open seat, but should be letting primary voters decide who should represent them. That said, I lean more toward the position of choosing the electable Republican in a state like Delaware, especially where the loss of the seat might keep control of the Senate in Democratic hands.

So I think the voters might — with an emphasis on “might” — have chosen the wrong candidate in Delaware. My problem with O’Donnell is not so much her electability as a conservative, but more her electability as a deeply flawed candidate. She has, to build off of Jim Geraghty’s colorful metaphor, more baggage than the Acela Express on the day before Thanksgiving. I have much less of a problem running the right conservative in what might be a losing race. I’m just not sure that she is the right candidate; she will have a hard time defending conservative principles when she is being drowned out by her personal issues.

But given the result, this is where I diverge fairly sharply from the party leadership’s pettiness this morning.  Whether or not there was a Democratic-sabotage effort behind her candidacy, she won the primary fairly handily. Rather than throwing a temper tantrum the morning after, and further sinking whatever chances she has of winning, the party leadership should be extending an olive branch. And though Ramesh is certainly correct that there are serious resource-allocation issues to take into account this year with so many Senate seats in play, a better approach for the national committees would be to offer her a down payment — say a quarter of a million dollars in seed money — and tell her that she will get more if she spends it wisely and shows some bang for the buck in the general election race. There is no question that she has an uphill battle and thus a more serious investment of limited resources should be met with some skepticism. But in crying over spilt milk, the Republican Committee leadership (assuming leaks are to be believed this morning) is displaying little more than petulance and their disconnect from the voters.

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