September 15th, 2010
12:08 PM ET
12 years ago

White House Dispatch: Democrats euphoric about 'choice' coming out of Delaware

Washington (CNN) - Just got off the phone with top Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf, and like other White House allies I've spoken to today he's just positively euphoric the morning after the choice voters now have in Delaware after Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell's stunning Tuesday night victory in the Republican Senate primary.

"The Republicans basically gave away a Senate seat," Elmendorf practically yelled into the telephone. "This woman can not win. Just look at the tone of what the NRSC and Karl Rove said."

Indeed, the National Republican Senatorial Committee says it will not give O'Donnell any money after she knocked off their preferred candidate, moderate Rep. Mike Castle. And Rove is suggesting O'Donnell has "serious character problems" that will likely throw Vice President Joe Biden's old Senate seat into the hands of Democratic nominee Chris Coons.

Top White House aides largely agree with Elmendorf - and oddly enough Rove too - that Democrats have just taken back a Senate seat that was probably lost if Castle had won the primary. He had been elected statewide about a dozen times as governor and Congressman, while O'Donnell is a wild card.

More importantly, White House aides feel this plays right into the narrative the President has been pushing about a choice between his policies (progress) and the Republican policies ("failed policies of the past," he claims).

"It's really got to tell you something that Karl Rove is saying Christine O'Donnell is too conservative for Delaware," said a senior administration official. "The fact that Mike Castle is now too conservative for the Republican party - it's a crystal clear signal there's no room for moderates in that party."

A second senior administration official added this only helps Obama "shape our message" that the election is a choice - the word the President has used over and over - between two vastly different approaches to fixing the economy and other critical issues.

But this second official cautioned that Democrats should not get overconfident because O'Donnell can survive without money from the NRSC and the rest of the party establishment because "she'll be able to fundraise" big time from conservative activists who are motivated to help.

"That can't be underestimated," this second official said of her influence with Tea Party supporters.

But Elmendorf said the difference is that while the Tea Party had vast influence to help O'Donnell in the more narrow Republican primary, the general election will be different because Delaware is a place where moderate candidates like Castle and Sen. Tom Carper (D) have consistently won statewide.

"This is Delaware," said Elmendorf. "This is not Kentucky."

Elmendorf noted the other benefit of the Delaware results is that it helps energize the Democratic base, which has only recently started getting excited about the election. "The juices don't start flowing until after Labor Day," he said.

Elmendorf said that as Republicans continue to nominate extremely conservative candidates, it helps make the President's case that there is a wide gulf between his agenda and that of House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and other Republican leaders.

"As we get closer to the election, people will realize this is a choice," said Elmendorf. "[Obama] may not be perfect. We may not have gotten everything we wanted. But the alternative is really bad."

Music to the ears of White House aides I've spoken to today.

"This is not a one-race phenomenon," one senior administration official said of Tea Party-backed candidates winning the Republican nomination in Senate races from Kentucky to Colorado and Alaska. "It's pretty clear that's where the energy is for Republicans. The question is if that's in the mainstream of where the American people are."

The senior official added, "The good thing is now there's a clear choice among voters. It just becomes more clear. And we think we're going to win a lot of these races" where there's a clear choice.

Get used to hearing that word - choice - the President will be using it over and over in the final stretch.

Filed under: 2010 • Christine O'Donnell • White House Dispatch
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    "Whose been in charge of both houses since 2007?"

    With the exception of approximately one year between Obama's election and Scott Brown's election, the GOP has been in control. All it takes is the 41-member "majority" in the Senate to pretty much turn the government on its head and stop anything from working.

    September 15, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. Steve (the real one)

    Folks are saying Castle would have given the GOP the seat. Really? He couldn't even win his primary! That doesn't mean this will be a stroll in the park for the Dems! You think the tea partiers have in in for the GOP? Exactly how do you think they feel about the dems??
    No room for moderates in the GOP? This actually coming from the Dems? Really? Please remind me exactly how you treat the Blue Dogs".

    September 15, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. water bearer

    Hey thanks for shooting yourselves in BOTH feet TeaPublicans! We Dems are learning to love ya!

    September 15, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  4. water bearer

    The TeaPublicans will be getting a very clear message in November. You aren't taking our country BACKward to anywhere!

    September 15, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  5. Jim in San Mateo

    The tea party is the best thing that could have happened for the Democrats. It's one thing for a wing nut to win a primary where the only voters are wing nuts and a few normal people.

    When you get to the general election where that normal people vastly outnumber the wing nuts, things aren't so rosy. Regular candidates play to their base in the primary and then take a few shuffle steps to the center for the general election. The Tea Baggers have played to their base, but have a monumental chasm to cross in order to get even remotely close to the center in order to have any hope in a general election.

    Remember that the center is where people who think, live.

    September 15, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. a health economist

    @ Jim,

    Yes, those of us on the left are very happy of our 'socialist utopia' complete with its public roads and highways, public schools, public police and fire stations, and our government run military. Please don't take that away from us and exchange it with 100% capitalism. I'm all for the 'free' market, I just don't like the idea of paying tolls to drive on private roads to get to the grocery store or having private armies compete to defend our country.

    September 15, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. water bearer

    After watching this moron of a woman giggle her way through 3 interviews this morning, all I have to say is there is absolulety NO WAY she will win a general election in which Dems, Indies & sane Republicans (yes, yes there ARE some) are voting.

    September 15, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  8. Right Leaning Independent

    The funny part of this story is that the White House believes it has a narrative. Their policies have absolutely been rejected by the majority of Americans!! Look at the polls!! The Dems are gone come November and I would not be surprised to see Ms ODonnel winning...

    September 15, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  9. Ben

    It's amazing the number of Libs on this blog whistling past the graveyard. Just like they said Scott Brown couldn't win. Well guess what. O"Donnell DID win and she's gonna win in November over that bearded Marxist.

    September 15, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  10. Ken, AZ

    As Democrats, we can't simply sit by and hope that the Tea Party destroys the GOP, we must help insure their demise by rallying around our party and our President and show up in November to vote for our candidates. Complacency will get us nothing. We can't take anything for granted.

    September 15, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  11. Ken, AZ

    MIKE said: "I have NEVER EVER voted for a Democrat, but I would this time if the only choice was between a liberal Dem and a dishonest, manipulative, opportunistic, nutty................". I thought he was referring to Sarah Palin but he was talking about O'Donnell. Actually, that pretty much describes the entire GOP.

    September 15, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  12. James from Cali

    People said there was no way Obama would nwin, he did. I think O'Donnell has as good as shot as any.

    September 15, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  13. george from alaska obvious republican scam. A typical tea party operation entails an out of state group with shady resources (koch?) spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on last minute tv & radio ads full of blatant lies and floods residents with slanderous robocalls. In alaska they even managed to get a ridiculous abortion notification referendum on the ballot to skew the turnout and elect a bitchy little man who called our current state senator lisa murkowski a "prostitute". the tea party is the modern day equivalent of a fascist movement that feeds on public frustration, fear & anger to hijack the government with a wolf in sheep's clothing extremist regime. fight it now or fight it later. Nip it in the bud before this republican scam gone haywire disease spreads and sickens us all.

    September 15, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  14. Peter E

    Exactly why should democrats celebrate and why should republicans fear? CNN is trying to sell the Tea Party as a huge contender that's overturning government by knocking out seat after seat. This ignores the fact that over 90% of incumbents who ran for re-election won their primaries so far. (guess what's going to happen in November also) The Tea Party didn't even run/back any candidate in most elections. Also, while there were a few highly publicized upsets, most of the Tea Party backed candidates were actually also the republican establishment backed candidates. Overall the Tea Party's victories are but a few percentage of the whole, and many of those victories themselves are victories for the establishment too.

    September 15, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  15. Bob

    I wouldn't get too excited. The Dems are underestimating the Tea Party just like the MSM does. There is a lot of energy behind this growing grass roots movement. Dems would never admit it but they're scared. Their agenda is out of touch with the majority of Americans who want our country to get back to the basics and stop spending like fools.

    September 15, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  16. KB from Texas

    I really don't care about the GOP or the "Tea Party". Just so you know, we don't care what the media is saying, we are working hard to keep dems. in office and the "Tea Party" is definitely helping our work. See you at the polls!!!

    September 15, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  17. Laura, Boston

    Everyone thought she wasn't going to win her primary....surprise she did!

    I wouldn't bet the ranch just yet that the election is going to be given to the democrats. It is the people who will that decision and the Tea Party moment is made up of lots of independant people as well as former democrats upset with the Obama agenda...

    We will see what November brings....

    September 15, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  18. Frasier6670

    I know this might be hard for the democrats and republicans to believe, but the people are sick and tired of a bunch of corrupt dogs that don't know what they are doing and don't listen to what the people want. We want change and that includes EXTREME CHANGE. That's what this country needs before it goes down in a ditch. Libs think the Tea Party is crazy and racist, but I have news for you ..... this is what the real tax paying Americans want. You won't be laughing come November.

    September 15, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  19. me

    Did all of you forget that the Dems were in charge the last 2 years of Bush's presidency?? THAT IS WHY THE COUNTRY IS SO SCREWED UP.

    September 15, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
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