The Republican Party has a Problem

Christine O'Donnell

Christine O'Donnell

The Republican Party has a problem and everyone knows it. Karl Rove knows it. Mitch McConnell knows it. I bet if he were asked, George W. Bush probably knows it too. It’s the Tea Party.

Last night, Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell won the GOP nomination to run for the Senate seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden. Republicans wanted Mike Castle to win.

It wasn’t just Delaware, the Tea Party has won a bunch of primaries this year.

Carl Paladino beat out Rick Lazio to run for the governor of New York. Paladino is that guy who sent all of those racist, bestiality and pornographic e-mail messages, but he’s the Tea Party supported nominee and he won.

The Paladino versus Lazio race has no impact on politics nationally for two reasons. First, no one expects either Lazio or Paladino to beat the Democrat Andrew Cuomo. Secondly, it’s a governor’s race for the state of New York.

But the Senate race in Delaware is an important win for the Tea Party. The common wisdom was that if Mike Castle had beaten O’Donnell, he would have won and taken a seat away from the Democrats. Whether that’s how it would have turned out is anyone’s guess, but now that O’Donnell is the candidate, there’s a very real chance that this seat will remain Democratic.

That’s the GOP’s Tea Party problem.

Similar situations are playing out in Nevada and Kentucky. In Nevada, Majority Leader Harry Reid was road kill until Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle beat Sue Lowden. Now the race is a dead heat, and Reid might actually win. In Kentucky, Rand Paul will probably win, but his crazy ideas about rolling back civil rights legislation, has made the race interesting when it should have been a slam dunk GOP win.

Also in Alaska, Utah and South Carolina Tea Party candidates beat Republican candidates Robert Bennett, Lisa Murkowski and Bob Inglis respectively.

So how does the GOP solve a problem like the Tea Party?

They could embrace the Tea Party people and veer even further to the right, but doing so will mean they will have no chance of beating Obama in 2012. Or they could attack the Tea Party as far rightwing nutjobs, but that would mean giving up on their southern strategy that’s been their bread and butter since the 1960s. What I think the GOP will do is attack individual Tea Party candidates they deem unacceptable and hope that the Tea Party just goes away quietly into the night.

It won’t.

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