Mike Castle Vs. Christine O’Donnell: How I Decide Which Candidate To Support In A Primary

The Mike Castle vs. Christine O’Donnell primary is getting people all tied up in knots. You see, Delaware is a tiny, liberal state. Democrats have a 44% to 32% advantage in party registration, Obama has a 55% approval rating there, and there hasn’t been a Republican in the Senate there for almost 40 years.

Because he’s s former governor and the state’s only congressional representative, Mike Castle, who’s an Olympia Snowe/Susan Collins style moderate, is uniquely situated to make a strong run at a Senate seat. Keep in mind that is the seat that Joe Biden held and when his son Beau saw that Castle was running, he decided he wasn’t even going to take a crack at it.

Castle’s opponent is Christine O’Donnell. She seems to be a genuinely conservative candidate, but she has a weak resume, isn’t very polished, has almost no money in the bank, and has an upside down approval rating (39% favorable vs. 44% unfavorable)

When you combine that information with the latest poll numbers, a clear picture emerges. A 9/2 Rasmussen poll shows Castle up 48% to 37% over Democratic candidate Chris Coons. On the other hand, Coons is up 47% to 36% over O’Donnell. It’s also worth noting that O’Donnell’s approval numbers and poll numbers are moving in the wrong direction. She’s not an unknown candidate catching up, she’s a candidate who’s falling back.

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So, what do we have here? If Mike Castle is the nominee, this is probably a gimmie seat for the Republicans. If Christine O’Donnell is the nominee, barring a miracle, the Democrats will retain the seat. In other words, the question here is not so much Castle vs. O’Donnell, it’s whether you choose to put a squishy establishment Republican in the seat or a Democrat, who may end up holding that seat for the next 30 years.

In cases like this, I have a set of primary rules that I try to follow. In order of preference…

1) Electable conservative vs. electable conservative: Look for a key difference on key issues.

2) Electable conservative vs. conservative with a 50% chance to win: Take the more electable conservative (This is why I would have preferred Lowden or Tarkanian over Angle)

3) Evenly matched conservative vs. moderate: No-brainer. The conservative.

4) Easily electable moderate vs. conservative with a 50% chance to win: I take the conservative with the 50% chance to win. That’s because he’ll be worth a lot more once he’s in office.

5) Easily electable moderate vs. conservative who probably won’t win: My goal is to get the most conservative people in office that I can. If the conservative can’t win, then I prefer the moderate to the Democrat.

#5 perfectly describes the Castle vs. O’Donnell race, so I prefer to see Castle win. I’m not going to endorse him. I’m not going to raise money for him. I’m not going to tell you how wonderful Mike Castle would be if he gets into the Senate (Because, trust me, he will make us pull our hair out). However, what I will tell you is that he can win the seat while it seems extremely likely that O’Donnell cannot.

Granted, some people would rather have a Democrat in office than Mike Castle. I know that’s the case because I’ve heard people say it. Their stated reasoning has either been that Mike Castle will be frustrating in the Senate (which he will), that they want to send a “message” to the GOP establishment, or that they simply don’t want any Republicans in the Senate who aren’t conservative.

I respect many of the people who’ve said these things, but with all due respect, they’re dead wrong.

Like it or not, there are some states where a moderate is just going to be a better fit than a conservative. If your attitude is that you’d rather lose with a conservative than win with a moderate, then what you are also saying, whether you know it or not, is that you would prefer to see the GOP as a permanent minority party. In other words, you get to thump your chest and talk about what a pure and unsullied conservative you are, but in practice, you’re helping the Left.

Now that doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptions to the rule. Personally, I would prefer to see a Democrat in office rather than John McCain. That’s because John McCain is often the guy who ends up rallying the squishes in the Senate to undermine the Right. Moreover, even in blue states, savvy blue chip conservative candidates can still sometimes win elections. That’s one reason I supported Chuck Devore over Carly Fiorina in California. California’s a blue state and Chuck’s a genuine conservative, but he looked every bit as viable as Fiorina, even if he didn’t have her money.

Additionally, I strongly support primarying squishy Republicans in office to help keep them honest. But, the point of a primary isn’t just to get rid of the squish, it’s to actually REPLACE HIM with a more conservative candidate. If you replace the squish with someone who is a dead dog loser in the general election, you’ve hurt conservatism, not helped it.

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