Playing with fire in Delaware

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On Monday, the Tea Party Express announced that it would wade into the Delaware GOP Senate primary by funding a sizeable amount of television and radio advertising to support conservative Christine O’Donnell in her bid against Mike Castle.

After the Tea Party Express demonstrated a keen eye for spotting opportunity and flying below the radar in Alaska, GOP loyalists have to be scratching their heads and Delaware Democrats should be licking their chops at this late foray into the First State.

At some level, it would be fair to draw a parallel between Lisa Murkowski and Mike Castle.  Yet, unlike Alaska’s Joe Miller, O’Donnell is not an unknown candidate.  Recent polls show her leading the pack when it comes to unfavorable ratings, so Delaware voters are not in the dark about her campaign. While O’Donnell may fair better than Castle in a conservative purity test, she can be considered, at this juncture, a flawed candidate. As Hotline On Call’s Jeremy Jacobs notes, O’Donnell’s personal finances merit closer scrutiny; as does her record.

Remove O’Donnell’s possible indiscretions from the equation and a significant question still remains — if O’Donnell wins the GOP nomination in the First State, will the Tea Party Express have the resources and wherewithal to help guide the under-financed O’Donnell to victory in November? This is unclear.

Delaware is not red like Alaska; in fact, it resembles the more arctic blue hue of Massachusetts, where the Tea Party Express earlier this year backed Scott Brown, not because he was a staunch conservative, but because he could win.

Political prognosticators (including Daily Kos) project Mike Castle as a pretty sure bet to win the general in Delaware, so why steal defeat from the jaws of victory when its clear that O’Donnell’s chances aren’t as bright?

Let’s hope Delaware Republicans provide a clear answer to this question on Sept. 14.

Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are the co-founders of CivicForumPAC