For the Tea Party, upstart Christine O’Donnell’s decisive victory over veteran Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware’s GOP Senate primary was a crowning triumph, a symbol of the voter dissatisfaction that shrouds the crucial midterm elections in November.
But for the Republican Party — whose leaders had cast O’Donnell as unelectable and unstable — the vote in Delaware symbolized an identity crisis within the GOP that could complicate its push for big gains in the fall elections that will decide control of Congress.
Although O’Donnell won with a small percentage of votes in one of the nation’s smallest states, her victory reverberated across the nation and widened a chasm separating conservative insurgents and their Tea Party allies on one side, and mainstream Republicans and centrists on the other.
“It’s official: There is now a civil war within the Republican Party,” said Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John McCain. “The good news for Republicans is the Tea Party is capturing the anti-establishment energy in America. The bad news is that includes the Republican establishment.”