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Palin Endorses O'Donnell in Delaware     Permalink

Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has endorsed tea partier Christine O'Donnell (R) for the Republican senatorial nomination in Delaware. The primary will be held next Tuesday. Up until now, the favorite has been Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE), a moderate who sometimes votes with the Democrats. Castle has been in elected office in Delaware continuously for 30 years, first as lieutenant governor, then governor for 8 years, then as a congressman since 1993. He is a real fixture in Delaware, known by everyone, and very popular in the state. The entire Republican establishment throughout the country supports him, despite his inconsistent voting record in the House.

So what's the big deal with Palin's endorsement? The establishment is scared to death of a repeat of the situation in Alaska in which an unknown, but Palin-endorsed candidate, Joe Miller (R), beat an incumbent U.S. senator, Lisa Murkowski, in the primary. While it was slightly embarrassing for the establishment candidate to lose in Alaska, it is not a disaster since any Republican is the heavy favorite there and Miller can probably beat Sitka mayor Scott McAdams (D) in the general election, although it may cost the NRSC a bit of money they would rather spend elsewhere.

Delaware is a completely different kettle of fish. If O'Donnell, an unmarried and apparently unemployed far-right gadfly with very extreme views on sex and other topics, were to pull off a "Miller" and defeat Castle, she would be slaughtered by Chris Coons (D), the executive of New Castle County, in the general election and all hopes of the Republicans retaking the Senate in 2010 would go up in smoke. Thus the national Republican party really, really, really, does not want O'Donnell to win. They are not willing to sacrifice a shot at capturing the Senate in return for a couple of votes down the road where Castle might vote with the Democrats and O'Donnell would vote with the Republicans. This puts Palin and the Republican party on a direct collision course. Of course, much of Palin's popularity is precisely that she is willing to take on the powers that be, even in her own party, so for the next week her endorsement won't hurt her. If O'Donnell either wins or comes very close, Palin will get much of the credit as O'Donnell, who ran for the Senate as a Republican in 2008 against Joe Biden and got only 35% of the vote, is hardly a credible candidate on her own. On the other hand, if Castle wins big next week, it will show that Palin's help has limits.

As an aside, in New Hampshire, which has an analogous primary Tuesday, in which appointed Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) is running against tea partier Ovide Lamontagne (R), Palin endorsed Ayotte, even though ideologically she is much closer to Lamontagne. How come? Simple. Ayotte has a good shot at being a U.S. sentor in January of 2012 and O'Donnell has close to zero chance of being a senator. Come the New Hampshire primary in January 2012, having one of the state's senators on your side is a good thing for a primary candidate. Palin has been very careful about her endorsements. In states that won't play a role in the 2012 nominating process, she always goes for the right winger. In states that will play an important role (like New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina), she goes with the likely winner, ideology be damned. This is no accident. She knows exactly what she is doing.

Today's Polls: AZ IL MO WV     Permalink

New Senate Polls

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Ind. I-pct Start End Pollster
Arizona Rodney Glassman 37% John McCain* 51%     Sep 07 Sep 07 Rasmussen
Illinois Alexi Giannoulias 37% Mark Kirk 41%     Sep 07 Sep 07 Rasmussen
Missouri Robin Carnahan 43% Roy Blunt 53%     Sep 07 Sep 07 Rasmussen
West Virginia Joe Manchin 50% John Raese 45%     Sep 08 Sep 00 Rasmussen

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