Great reader responses to this, most of which argue that I’m presenting a “false choice” with the 40 DeMints/O’Donnell’s versus 60 Grahams/Castle’s argument. Here are two:
We will never have 60 Castles or 40 DeMints.
It’s simple: We need DeMints (I’d say Coburns, I like Coburn much more) where Demints/Coburns can win, and Castles and Browns and Snowes where they can win. It’s foolish to suggest Coburns could win in Delaware, Maine or Massachusetts, just as it’s foolish to suggest that we need Snowes or Castles in Oklahoma or Alaska.
This, frankly, is the only adult opinion on this matter in my book. Sure, we can have tactical disagreements on when/where to have which, or who is which, and we can have a debate over other factors (i.e. I am fine with Joe Miller and would have supported him in the primary, but think Christine O’Donnell is an insult to the conservative movement for reasons having nothing to do with ideology) but it’s not an all or nothing proposition.
I think that’s a false choice to a certain extent. I’d go with the DeMint wherever I think I can get away with it, and then augment that number with Grahams in places like Delaware, Illinois, etc. Forty DeMints plus twenty Grahams gives us plenty of operating room. Even if the moderates don’t vote with the conservatives 100% of the time, it still guarantees us committee chairmanships, control of the legislative agenda, an excellent shot at controlling confirmation hearings, etc.
I think this is exactly right at the macro level, and I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. But in each micro instance — in this case, Delaware — conservative voters have to ask themselves whether they’d rather have a purplish Republican like Mike Castle or take a shot backing a deeply-flawed, but more ideologically simpatico, candidate like O’Donnell, who at this point would need a lot of help to win a general.
UPDATE: Two more good reader e-mails (of the many I’ve received). The first from a conservative Castle supporter in Delaware:
Thanks for your post on the Corner regarding this race. I’m a conservative Castle supporter for the reasons you bring to light. As we get closer to the primary, one week from today, I think many conservatives will join me. I still believe that Delaware can produce a conservative federal legislator. After all, we twice elected Pete duPont as governor. (Hard to believe Castle was his running mate) However, O’Donnell isn’t that person. But we have Colin Bonini running for statewide office, along with Joe Booth taking a leadership role in the state house. It can be done, but the Tea Party must set its sights a little lower, demonstrate a little more patience and build from the bottom up.
And a reader pointing out what separates the flawed O’Donnell candidacy from other conservative insurgencies:
This is a remarkably foolish debate. Pat Toomey is Harvard educated, a former Congressman who honored his previous term limit pledge, and former leader of The Club for Growth. These credentials chase Arlen Specter from the party.
Mike Lee used to clerk for Alito. He chased out a moderate who backed an individual mandate for healthcare, who also failed to honor his term limit pledge when he first ran for Senate (Bob Bennett).
Joe Miller’s claims to fame are his bronze star, West Point degree, and Yale law school intelligence. Lisa Murkowski’s claim to fame is her last name.
Marco Rubio has held public office before and has a wonderful back story. He also is tremendously coherent on the stump. No wonder he chased Charlie Crist out of the party.
I would argue that these “insurgents” have won their primaries in largest part because of whom they are. A throw the bums out mentality has some to do with it, but not as much as some want to believe.
Did O’Donnell clerk for Scalia and is holding that knowledge secret for a last weekend push? Serve in the Army? Attend two of the most competitive schools in the world? Hold the speakership of her state house? Run an important conservative think tank/PAC? What exactly in her record says she has earned a vote for Senate? And so what if Mike Castle is not going to vote the conservative line 100% of the time. Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu aren’t the most liberal members of their caucus. They still voted for healthcare, didn’t they? We could use a couple useful idiots on our side, too.