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On Delaware and New Hampshire

Posted on Sep. 13, 10 | 01:08 PM by Michael Connolly | Topic: Elections
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The conservative blogosphere is atwitter today about the late surges of Senate candidates Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Ovide Lamontagne.  The controversy is a familiar one.

On the one hand, movement conservatives would be wonderful in those seats.  But on the other, if those movement conservatives can’t win in November, that has to be part of the calculus, too.  It’s neither disloyal or dumb to be conflicted in these cases.

(The Club for Growth PAC has taken no position on either race, and I take no personal position here, either.)

But one point commentators are missing, I think, is the reason  conservative primary voters may be willing to risk defeat in November for principle in the primaries.  It is because of the leadership of the Republican Party in Washington. 

If conservatives trusted that a Mike Castle, say, would be kept in line by the official GOP in Washington, they would be more willing to hold their noses and vote for him.  But for conservatives, “pragmatism” is often the victory of hope over experience.

Is it really the case that Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republican leadership will pull Castle to the right, or that Castle will pull them to the left?  Whatever side you’re on, I think the experience of Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins – even on the fiscal issues on which they are supposed “conservative” – makes the answer unclear.

If Castle is a sure vote to repeal Obamacare, for instance, that would matter – as it did for Tea Party conservatives who rightly supported moderate Scott Brown in Massachusetts. 

But will Castle really be the 60th vote to repeal Obamacare, when the time comes?  Or would he instead form a  bipartisan “Gang” with Snowe, Collins, Joe Lieberman, and a handful of Democrats to “modify” Obamacare, and to rescue it from full repeal?

I don’t know.  Neither do the bloggers.  And neither do the perfectly sensible Republican primary voters in New Hampshire and Delaware.  Castle/Ayotte voters are not sell outs, and O’Donnell/Lamontagne voters are not foolish.  They’re both trying to figure out how best to save the country from an out-of-control Democratic government and an out-of-its-depth Republican establishment.
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