Karl Rove says that his new group is designed to produce “fewer Christine O’Donnells and more Rand Pauls.” I’m not sold on Rand Paul, but I agree that the Christine O’Donnell nomination was a bad, bad idea. So how did it happen? Was O’Donnell’s moderate-to-liberal Republican opponent underfunded? As it turns out the answer is no. Mike Castle seems to have outspent O’Donnell and the conservative groups supporting O’Donnell by about two-to-one. Was it because her history of financial difficulties and her record as a litigious pest were unknown prior to the primary? Nope. Her record was available to her better-funded opponent who chose not to deploy it against her until late in the race.
The story of the 2010 Delaware Republican senatorial nomination isn’t about Christine O’Donnell. It is about Mike Castle. Castle chose to take his party’s support base for granted and ended up losing to a candidate who should have been a joke. Castle didn’t need Karl Rove’s money. He needed to respect his voters by crafting an agenda that addressed their concerns. Moderate-to liberal Republicans have proven able to build agendas that appeal to conservative voters. Susan Collins in Maine was able to unify conservatives around her in 2008 by building her campaign around opposition to card check legislation. Scott Brown unified Massachusetts Republicans by building his campaign around opposition to tax increases, Obamacare, and civilian trials for terrorists. Mike Castle wasted his time, his money, and the attention of Republican primary voters in his state. That is why he lost.
And what is Karl Rove going to do anyway? Is he going to drop six figure ad buys against every flake and freak who scrapes together the money to make it on a senatorial ballot next year? Establishment and moderate Republicans running in left-of-center constituencies don’t need Karl Rove’s help. They need to follow the Susan Collins and Scott Brown playbook for forming a broad center-to-right coalition within their state’s Republican party. That means addressing some of the policy priorities of conservatives and treating conservatives as allies rather than annoyances. Conservative donors should be able to put their money to more productive uses than helping Karl Rove
buy a bigger house save us from future Christine O’Donnells.