Hans Bader, in the Examiner, blames the Tea Party Express for costing Republicans three Senate pick-ups. He cites its support during the primaries of three losing Republican candidates – Christine O’Donnell in Delaware; Sharron Angle in Nevada; and Ken Buck in Colorado.
There’s little doubt that O’Donnell’s nomination cost the Republicans a pick-up. Since Mike Castle is a centrist, not a conservative, we should think of Delaware as a half seat lost for conservatives. But conservatives who are serious about stopping the Obama express should not be willing to squander even half of a Senate seat.
Nor is Bader’s criticism a case of “twenty-twenty hindsight.” When the Tea Party Express threw its support behind O’Donnell, it was clear that she had almost no chance of winning. Bader said so at the time, as I did, and we were right.
I’m less inclined to criticize those who supported Angle and Buck in their primaries. Angle did under-perform, as I argued here, and there was good reason to believe at the time of the primary that at least one of her Republican opponents (Sue Lowden) would run a stronger race. But Angle was never a no-hoper. Nor, given Reid’s fairly convincing win, can I say with confidence that Lowden would have defeated Reid. To be sure, she was ahead of Reid in their head-to-head polls, but so was Angle at times.
The Colorado race was so close that it’s easy to believe that even a marginally better candidate than Ken Buck would have won it for the Republicans. And Buck reportedly did not run a great campaign. But at the time of the Republican primary, he was doing about as well in the polls against the incumbent Democrat as his main opponent, Jane Norton. Moreover, there were Colorado Republican insiders who believed that, notwithstanding Buck’s gaffe during the primary campaign, he was seasoned and attractive enough to run a solid campaign.
My point is not to disagree with Bader’s analysis of these races, which I think is good. My point is that there’s quite a bit of uncertainty in politics, and we shouldn’t expect the Tea Party Express, or any other outfit or individual, to make flawless decisions about whom to support in primaries. Indeed, it seems almost inevitable that a party will be unable to nominate optimal candidates across-the-board.
We should, however, expect conservatives to avoid obvious blunders like the one in Delaware. Let’s hope that, going forward, they do.
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