The Campaign Spot

A Long-Overdue Overhaul for Delaware Republicans?

I thought this message from a former Delawarean now living in Philadelphia was illuminative:

In all the coverage I’ve been reading about O’Donnell’s defeat of Castle in Delaware, no one mentions the unmentionable dynamic of social class distinctions (especially when they play out in a state with fewer people than than most cities with NFL franchises).

Both parties in Delaware have been led by blue-blood patrician types for eons. That probably isn’t unusual in most states, but in a small state it plays out in a very interesting way. The big donors and loyalists of both parties are members of the same bar association, members of the same country clubs, do business together and send their kids to the same private schools. They live in the same neighborhoods, too. This co-mingling created a genteel centrist quality in Delaware politics that has not been challenged in any significant way, until now. All these folks live in Wilmington’s old money neighborhood and its upscale suburbs. The rural southern counties (long the base for conservative Democrats) never counted for much politically — except for producing a few powerful codgers in the legislature. Now, the only voters the state GOP has left in any concentration are the rural conservatives, yet the party blue-bloods have ignored them (the 2006 Senate nominee was so pathetically liberal, he was to the left of the Dem — Tom Carper).

O’Donnell didn’t only beat the state party, she absolutely buried it. Without Castle, the state GOP has only one state office holder (the Auditor for life, who nobody doesn’t like). The state GOP, to have any future, will (finally!) have to be totally remade, in the image of middle class and rural voters who want a choice — not an echo. But this is work that should have started 14 years ago.

Also, I noted to another conservative late last night, we must now ask whether the Castle campaign ever gave a fed-up Delaware Republican voter a real reason to vote for him. If you’re mad as hell about what’s going on in Washington — and it’s not like Delaware is spared the recession — what message do you send by shifting the kindly, gentle-voiced, conciliatory, consensus-minded moderate guy from the House to the Senate?

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