September 12th, 2010
08:29 AM ET
12 years ago

GOP fights to hold off Tea Party in Delaware

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption =" Christine O’Donnell and Sen. Mike Castle are vying for the Republican nomination for Senate in Delaware."]Millsboro, Delaware (CNN) - The Republican party's candidate in Delaware says he won't be caught off guard by the Tea Party in the final days before Tuesday's primary.

Mike Castle, the moderate Republican congressman whose Senate bid has the support of the state GOP, is trying to avoid becoming the next Lisa Murkowski.

Sen. Murkowski, the Republican incumbent in Alaska, was ousted by a Tea Party challenger last month. Soon after her defeat, she phoned Castle with a warning, the congressman tells CNN.

"I actually received a call after the election saying, 'Mike, you need to be prepared, they'll come at you hard,' " Castle said after a campaign stop in Millsboro, Delaware. "It was part of a broader wake-up call that's been going on for several months now."

So far this year, Tea Party activists have claimed insurgent victories against Republican moderates in Senate races in Alaska, Utah, Kentucky, and Nevada, with their message of more individual liberties, less government and lower taxes.

Not long ago, the national Tea Party Express organization announced their support for Castle's opponent, conservative underdog Christine O'Donnell. Two of the movement's leading lights also endorsed her in the past few days: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.

O'Donnell tells CNN, she believes Tea Party adherents are "rising up to take back the country, because they're concerned about the direction of Washington D.C."

Since Tuesday, the Tea Party Express has spent at least $150,000 on ads supporting her, federal records show; they have pledged to bring that total to $250,000 by Tuesday.

Castle says that effort has been enough to make him "sit up and take notice." His campaign, and the GOP, are trying to portray O'Donnell as a long-shot fringe candidate, hitting her with ads and statements questioning her inexperience, her electability, her campaign's finances and even her personal financial problems.

"It's not the way I prefer to go," said Castle. "I've not in the past ever gone in that particular direction."

Likewise, O'Donnell and the Tea Party have been knocking Castle as an "Obama Republican" who voted in favor of the 2008 bailout and Democratic bills on energy and campaign finance, and portraying him as a party establishment candidate.

"This is a year where, in order to get things right back in Washington, we have to replace career politicians with citizen politicians," O'Donnell told CNN as she campaigned at a senior center in Dover.

But Castle still has many advantages in his bid: a well-known name, the support of state party leaders, a record of years of public service and a lopsided cash advantage.

According to Sam Hoff at Delaware State University, he is one of the most liberal Republicans in the House, when scored by voting records.

But Jason Mycoff at the University of Delaware says, "even among primary voters, he's a decent match. The Delaware Republican Party is not like Republicans in the South. They're not really right-leaning."

By contrast, if it is O'Donnell who wins the nomination, Hoff says she would be in for an uphill battle in November against Democrat Chris Coons. "She would face a Democratic state, a blue state," he said. "Obama's approval level is over 50 in Delaware, compared to mid-40s nationally."

But still, he says, in politics, "never say never."

Whichever candidate wins the Republican nomination, the fight may leave both with some bruises – which could help Democrats cling to the seat. It was held by Joe Biden for decades, and is now temporarily filled by an appointed Democrat.

"This back-and-forth is probably not positive for either her, or me," Castle told CNN.

But Diamond State Tea Party organizer Kevin Street says he doesn't think a rough-and-tumble primary is going to hurt the GOP.

"I think stronger debate brings stronger candidates," he said. "And if it hurts us, you can't blame ourselves for trying."

–CNN's Brian Todd contributed to this report

Filed under: 2010 • Christine O'Donnell • Delaware • Mike Castle
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Tea Party hangover

    I hope she is a Ron Paul republican. All of these fake conservatives like Castle have to go back to their democratic party

    September 12, 2010 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  2. John

    The Tea Party and Saran Palin are nothing but Racist people. Do any one every think of who flipping the bill for the Tea Party too go all over the county, try the republican party.

    September 12, 2010 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  3. Clwyd

    We had a teabugger rally in Racine, Wisconsin yesterday and our local nut case righty, Paul Ryan, spoke saying, "We need to take back our country." Do you nut case racist extremists remember that those were some of the same words that Hitler used on his rise to power in Germany? I was pleased to see some dozen or so students from the local high school there saying the right is too extreme! Wake up to where you might be taking this country! Sickos!

    September 12, 2010 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  4. Denny

    Liberals don't know what to do about the Tea Party crowd. They call the Tea Party people all kinds of ugly names but the Tea Partiers just quietly go about their business of taking back the country. Pretty amazing.

    September 12, 2010 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  5. D. Bunker

    O'Donnell is just another lying GOBPbagger who care more for herself and her party than she does for the country. Castle is exactly the type of centrist the loonies are trying to force out of the party. What a self-destructive bunch of petty anti-Americans.

    September 12, 2010 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  6. Jilli

    Ah...grab your popcorn and watch them eat their own. The republicans cannot control the frankenstein monster they created. Tsunami coming? It's looking less likely by the day.

    September 12, 2010 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  7. a in austin

    If people think things are bad now, wait to see how bad it gets if the party of no regain control. Talk about class warfare. They could care less about middle class Americans. It is all about corporate welfare. We are seeing it now. They don't like regulations in place, have nothing to say about jobs being shipped out of the country, nothing, nada.....stir the pot is about all they are good for. Still have not said anything about how they "plan" to run the country. Oh, that's right, repeal the Bush tax cuts for the millionaire/billionaires. They are all bought and paid for –

    September 12, 2010 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  8. vic, Nashville TN

    The beginning Tea party was sounds good to me (august 2009) 2010 July I don’t want to be republican more

    September 12, 2010 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  9. katiec

    The caliber of people the tea party backs leaves much to be desired.
    Their picks prove they are radical, unthinking people who have allowed theirselves be manipulated, used, brain washed by the rich, radical right wingers that have no goal but to make sure Wall St gets back into control.
    How anyone can vote for a tea party candidate, can give any creditibility to the tea party itself is beyond me.

    September 12, 2010 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  10. W.G.

    Gee Wally , I thought tea partiers and republicans were the same
    thing except for the fact that teapartiers are a little more proud
    of the hate and stupidity they spew out .

    September 12, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  11. Tom

    Why do they keep calling them Tea Party candidates? They're still Republicans and that sucks.

    September 12, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  12. Hud

    Where do you think .The Tea party money is coming from BIG BUSINES.

    September 12, 2010 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  13. jim

    Keep calling tea party members names and misrepresent what they stand for and watch as your candidates fall one by one in Nov.

    September 12, 2010 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  14. ChumBucket

    If Castle was a conservative, instead of a democrat plant, he wouldn't be having this problem.

    oh, and I hope my party (tea party) wins, so we can burn all liberals on the cross.

    September 12, 2010 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  15. ChumBucket

    "vic, Nashville TN September 12th, 2010 9:33 am ET

    The beginning Tea party was sounds good to me (august 2009) 2010 July I don’t want to be republican more"

    English as a third language?

    September 12, 2010 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  16. Truth4you10

    Ridicule Your opponents By Saul Alinsky

    * Identified a set of very specific rules that ordinary citizens could follow, and tactics that ordinary citizens could employ, as a means of gaining public power
    * Created a blueprint for revolution under the banner of "social change"
    * Two of his most notable modern-day disciples are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

    September 12, 2010 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  17. Chuck Carter

    Hmmmm... what was the name of that party started by Ross Perot? Reform something...

    In 10 years people will again be asking... Tea what?

    September 12, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |