Christine O’Donnell’s Pyrrhic Victory

So, you managed to get Christine O’Donnell the Republican nomination. Which means that the DE Senate seat she’s running for will go to the Democrats.

If you believe that we need to end the disastrous policies of the Obama Administration, reduce spending, and stop government overreach, then the best way of doing that is to see the Democratic majority in Congress go away.

And that means being strategic about selecting candidates.

I’m sorry, but with due respect to Ms. O’Donnell, she doesn’t have a shot in hell of winning. Her negatives are through the roof, she has no relevant experience, and other than saying the right things to conservatives, she’s got little going for her. Her record is, to be blunt, atrocious. Her record on her own finances should be sufficient to disqualify her—the Democratic attack ads practically write themselves. She will lose to Chris Coons, and she will lose by double digits. One can come up with all sorts of scenarios in which that doesn’t happen, but none of them are remotely likely.

The Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and Sen. Jim DeMint have pissed away a very winnable Senate seat. That means that the chances of GOP takeover of the Senate have gone from a relative longshot to roughly nil.

Yes, it’s fine to prefer the more conservative of two candidates. But that must be balanced with the understanding that if the more conservative candidate has no shot at actually winning, the effect of voting for that candidate is the same as voting for the Democrat.

In short, by voting for Christine O’Donnell, the conservative, the Tea Party has voter for Chris Coons, the radical left-wing liberal.

So far, this strategy has turned two sure-fire GOP pickups into two likely GOP losses. We could have picked off Harry Reid this year, but now the Nevada Senate race is a toss-up at best. We could have picked up a seat in Delaware, but that’s not going to happen.

Politics isn’t about being ideologically pure, it’s about being ideologically pragmatic. You don’t win a game of football by trying to throw Hail Mary passes every play, you win by moving the ball. Mike Castle may have been a squish, but he would have helped us move the ball in a more conservative direction. And when we had built up enough strength, found an acceptable conservative candidate, then it would have been a smart time to replace Castle.

The Tea Parties need to learn from the netroots, as painful as it is to write that. In 2006 and 2008, the netroots endorsed a whole slew of right-wing Democrats. Was Jon Tester a committed left-wing liberal? No. But he could, and did, win in a conservative state. Same with Jim Webb in Virginia—and many issues he could be considered a DINO. But the netroots supported him. When the netroots went for ideological purity above all (see Ned Lamont versus Joe Lieberman), they lost.

In fact, see Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Sen. Brown is conservative on many issues, but is not a perfect conservative. But the Tea Party still supported him, because he was the best alternative. Sen. Brown is as conservative a candidate as can win in Massachusetts, and had the Tea Party ousted him with some fire-breathing conservative stalwart, we’d be talking about Sen. Martha Coakley right now.

The goal should be to elect as conservative a candidate as possible that can still win. Christine O’Donnell may be conservative, but she simply cannot win the Delaware Senate race. Instead of moving the Senate in a more conservative direction, the Tea Parties have torpedoed the chances of a GOP takeover of the Senate.

No doubt some principled conservatives are celebrating what they see as a victory tonight. But for principled conservatism, it’s a Pyrrhic victory.

Addendum: At the same time, let no one think I’m a fan of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). So far this cycle they have managed to back several losers, including turncoats Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist. The goal is to elect the most conservative candidate likely to win. And sometimes a conservative challenger like Pat Toomey or Marco Rubio can win. The NRSC is the flip-side of the Tea Parties in this regard, and neither side can truly claim superiority over the other. It isn’t just about electability, and it isn’t just about ideology. It’s about selecting the candidate with the right mix of both for the race. Neither side really seems to understand this principle.

Update: Castle won’t endorse O’Donnell. Mike Castle’s political career is likely over—he’s 70 years old. He can choose to go out with grace and dignity, or end a long career on a sour note. It is sad to see him choose the latter. Yes, Ms. O’Donnell is a terrible candidate, but she is the candidate that the voters chose. Rep. Castle should show respect to that choice and do what he can to help O’Donnell win, even if that outcome is unlikely.