So where does Christine O’Donnell go now after her landslide defeat (57% to 40%) by now Senator Chris Coons in Delaware? Get ready for more of the same. That may be good news for political pundits and those who view politics as entertainment. But it’s very bad news for Delaware Republicans!
Christine O’Donnell first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006 after moving to Delaware from New Jersey to take a job at the conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute, then unsuccessfully sued her employer for firing her. She finished third in the Republican primary that year running on a militantly Christian and pro-life platform. Although she initially promised to support the winner of that primary, she changed her mind and ran as a write-in candidate in the general election, gathering more than 11,000 write-in votes in the general election in which former Governor Tom Carper was elected to his third term in the U.S. Senate with 70% of the vote.
In 2008, for want of a stronger candidate, she became the official Republican challenger to Senator Joe Biden as he simultaneously sought re-election to his seventh term in the U.S. Senate and also election as the Vice Presidential running mate to Barack Obama. In winning both posts, Biden defeated Christine O’Donnell by the largest margin of any of his Senate elections, 65% to 35%.
Undeterred by her two defeats, she ran for the U.S. Senate in Delaware for the third time in the 2010 special election to fill Senator Biden’s vacated seat, this time scoring her famous upset over Congressman and former Governor Mike Castle in the Republican primary, before going on to lose to now Senator Chris Coons in the general election. Before the primary Mike Castle had been favored to win election to the remaining term of the Senate seat vacated by Joe Biden upon his election as Vice-President. Chris Coons, although the popular elected chief executive of Delaware’s largest county, was widely viewed as a sacrificial lamb.
In the course of her losing 2010 campaign, Christine O’Donnell raised over $7 million in campaign funds, a record amount for any campaign in the small state of Delaware which consists of a single congressional district.
Christine O’Donnell’s plans for the future were made clear this month when she launched a political action committee, ChristinePAC, “to counter the liberal-controlled GOP establishment” and “investigate and attack left-wing groups.” This is a sure sign that she will be running for Senate again in 2012 when Senator Tom Carper is up for re-election. And given her impressive persistence in the face of rejection and defeat, there’s every reason to expect her to run again in 2014 when Senator Chris Coons reaches the end of the 4-year term to which he was elected in 2010.
Meanwhile the Delaware Republican Party, which strongly supported Mike Castle in the 2010 primary, is in extreme disarray. Tom Ross, the outspoken state party chairman, who openly attacked Christine O’Donnell during the primary campaign, and famously stated that she “couldn’t be elected dogcatcher,” will not seek re-election this year. The party’s executive director Seth Wimer, is leaving to join the presidential campaign of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. Both posts will likely be filled by Christine O’Donnell loyalists.
Although 2010 was a Republican landslide year nationally, thanks to Christine O’Donnell’s negative coattails, Democrats were able to turn Delaware even more blue, capturing Delaware’s sole seat in the U.S. House, winning the State Treasurer’s position Republicans had expected to win, and nearly defeating the State Auditor, the sole remaining Republican statewide officeholder. They also gained 2 seats in the state house while losing 1 seat in the state senate.
Given that trail of destruction and Christine O’Donnell’s determination to again head the Republican ticket in Delaware for the foreseeable future, Republicans should be crying in their beer, and Democrats should be smiling. And near the end of her 2010 campaign Christine O’Donnell received a shot of negative publicity from the celebrity website gawker.com which may negatively affect her political base.
But there’s a reason elections have to actually be held. Delaware elections will receive worldwide attention as long as Christine O’Donnell is again running for the U.S. Senate. And political junkies will rejoice!