Republicans stunned as sexual abstinence candidate nabs Senate nomination
A TEA Party-backed candidate in Delaware who built her public career advocating sexual abstinence has snatched the Republican nomination to run for the US Senate seat in November, stunning the party establishment.
The upset victory by Christine O'Donnell (41) in the Delaware primary contests serves to confirm a reality that has been creeping up on the Republican leadership for months -- as it tries to train its guns on Democrats in time for the mid-term elections in November it is also facing a powerful right-wing insurgency from within its own ranks.
Ms O'Donnell, a marketing consultant, won even though she had been lambasted by others in the party. The local party chairman described her as "a delusional liar". Her victory illustrates the truculent national mood and unwillingness of voters to listen to party leaders.
The lessons were similar elsewhere on Tuesday, which saw the last big round of primaries before the November mid-terms. The once very popular Washington DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, a Democrat, lost his primary race. Republicans in New York were dumbfounded as their party-supported candidate for governor, Rick Lazio, went down to the much more conservative Carl Paladino, who has vowed to take a "baseball bat" to the state capital.
Mr Paladino's fortunes were apparently not dented by the release of emails he sent with racist jokes and pornographic images. One showed a digitally-doctored image of Barack and Michelle Obama as a pimp and prostitute. The national consequences of his win may be limited, however. Few would have expected even Mr Lazio to beat the Democratic candidate for the governorship, Andrew Cuomo; Mr Paladino's chances seem still slimmer.
The fallout from Ms O'Donnell's win is more easily guessed at. Republican leaders had been counting on a win on Tuesday by her rival Mike Castle, a moderate in the party who has held statewide elected positions in Delaware for roughly four decades. It was assumed not only that he would win the primary but that he would go on to win the Senate seat.
That assumption does not hold for Ms O'Donnell. It is not even clear that the Republican Party in Washington will funnel funding to her campaign amid assessments that she cannot win in November because her views are too extreme to attract independents. More disastrously, not taking the Delaware Senate seat might put the cherished goal of taking control of the US Senate out of the party's reach.
Party unity in the wake of Ms O'Donnell's win will also fray. Karl Rove, Republican commentator and former Bush aide, expressed his dismay to Fox News. "There are a lot of nutty things she's been saying that simply don't add up."