O’Donnell scores huge upset

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
Font Size:

DOVER, Del.—Republican U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell scored a stunning upset against Rep. Mike Castle here in Delaware, taking down an establishment-backed Republican Tuesday night.

“I stood before most of you a little over a week ago and said, ‘We’re not in this to come close. We’re in this to win. We’re in this to win big,'” O’Donnell told a small—but energized—crowd during her acceptance speech. “And win big we did.

O’Donnell’s victory once again shows the power the California-based Tea Party Express organization has had this year in guiding long-shot conservative candidates to unlikely victories. The group — which was behind Sharron Angle’s win in Nevada and Joe Miller’s upset in Alaska — spent thousands on TV and radio ads for O’Donnell.

At the O’Donnell election night party, it got rowdy when the early returns started coming in. Supporters in blue “Team Christine” shirts cheered and danced to Twisted Sister’s “We’re not gonna take it.” They also chanted, “Na na na na, Mike Castle good-bye.”

They booed when Castle appeared on Fox News on one of the two TVs (the other was tuned to CNN).

When the AP called the race for O’Donnell, supporters — including Amy Kremer, the chairman of the Tea Party Express — danced on stage.

Kremer, asked in an interview after the results were announced how the Tea Party Express has been so successful this cycle, said, “We do it because we have the people behind us.”

Tuesday’s primaries across the country also mark the end of what has been a particularly nasty Republican primary cycle that pitted Tea Party insurgents versus establishment GOPers.

O’Donnell, a conservative activist who is making her third run for the U.S. Senate, will face Democrat Chris Coons in November.

The narrative heading into O’Donnell’s primary fight Tuesday with the liberal Republican Mike Castle was that the GOP will lose the seat if O’Donnell wins. In an interview with The Daily Caller earlier Tuesday outside a polling station at Dover High School, O’Donnell dismissed her critics who’ve said she can’t win in November.

“They’re the same people who said I couldn’t win here,” said O’Donnell, dressed in a red jacket and black pants. “I mean, look where we are in the polls. They said I’d never get beyond a few percentage points.”

During her acceptance speech Tuesday night, the crowd—borrowing a catch-phrase from President Obama’s 2008 campaign—started chanting “yes, we can” when she spoke of those who say she’s doomed in November.

O’Donnell said she will woo over voters in the general by showing them how she isn’t the demon she’s been portrayed as by her opponent.

“I can’t tell you how many voters, how many people have said, that the person they try to paint on TV is not who they meet in person,” O’Donnell said of herself. “So our strategy is to go to every county, every week, meet as many people as we can, and allow them an opportunity to get to know me.”

Wednesday will likely be an awkward day for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), who have not hid their distaste with O’Donnell.

On Tuesday afternoon, for example, a NRSC spokesman distributed a story to reporters about a former O’Donnell aide accusing the candidate of being a fraud. And as for whether national Republicans will allocate any money to her race, Sen. John Corrnyn refused to discuss the issue, saying he won’t comment on that until the primary is decided.

O’Donnell — once deemed a long-shot — rose in the polls in the final weeks of the primary, leading Castle in one recent PPP survey after trailing most of the campaign. She saw a rise in support after the Tea Party Express, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Fox News host Sean Hannity, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and other key conservatives got behind her — and Castle used that against her to say her support comes from outside the state.

Thus, she was careful not to give the outside endorsements too much credit when asked Tuesday by TheDC if those high-profile endorsements were responsible for her surge. “I give all the credit to the hard work of my volunteers. Because we wouldn’t have gotten a Palin or Hannity endorsement or DeMint endorsement if there weren’t already a groundswell over support here in Delaware.”