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Christine O'Donnell beats Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware Republican Senate primary
Now those calculations are out the window, as exuberant Democrats predicted they would hold the seat and the GOP establishment in Washington weighed whether to shift its resources to other more attractive contests.
A senior Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid view, said the national senatorial committee would "walk" out of the Delaware race.
O'Donnell, interviewed on CNN, brushed off those threats, saying the GOP leaders in Washington "don't have a winning track record." She added, "I'd love their support but I'm going to win without them."
One sign of the demoralization inside the GOP establishment came in the lukewarm news release from NRSC Executive Director Rob Jesmer on Tuesday night: "We congratulate Christine O'Donnell for her nomination this evening after a hard-fought primary campaign in Delaware."
As telling was that Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the NRSC chairman who has been on the losing end of a series of primaries, issued no statement.
Democrats moved quickly to try to paint O'Donnell as unacceptable to the Delaware electorate. "Today the Republican Party has shown just how far right it has moved," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Timothy M. Kaine. He called O'Donnell "a self-aggrandizing and divisive candidate" who favors "failed Republican economic policies."
Democrats will find plenty of ammunition to use against O'Donnell from her fellow Republicans. One example came from Ross, who said earlier that O'Donnell "could not be elected dog catcher" in the state.
But tea party activists said it is time to stand for conservative principles. Before the vote, Amy Kremer, chairman of the Sacramento-based Tea Party Express, said, "If Mike Castle is not the most liberal Republican in Congress right now, he is one of them. He voted for TARP and cap-and-trade, 'cash for clunkers,' I could go on and on. If we send him [back] to Washington, he'll vote with Obama-Reid-Pelosi the majority of the time. At some point you have to stand on principle and stop playing these party politics."
The GOP establishment took another beating in New York in the state's gubernatorial primary. Political newcomer and tea party favorite Carl Paladino trounced former congressman Rick Lazio, who was favored until the final days of the race.
Paladino will face Democratic state Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo in November. Cuomo will begin the race as the heavy favorite.
In another closely watched race, former New Hampshire attorney general Kelly Ayotte, who was considered the establishment choice, was neck and neck with lawyer Ovide Lamontagne in the GOP Senate primary.
The New Hampshire contest did not fit as neatly into the establishment-vs.-tea party mold. Ayotte received support from Palin and several other prominent national conservatives.