Why Christine O’Donnell lost

Posted on November 3, 2010


Anyone who thought Delaware Senate Republican candidate Christine O’Donnell was ever doing well among the state’s electorate was sadly mistaken (not to mention seriously deluded) from the get-go. She lost because she was unqualified, a poor public speaker, ignorant of the core issues that are important to her state’s voters, and — most of all — she was just far too much of a bimbo to be taken seriously.

Not only were her debate performances something straight out of a Saturday Night Live sketch, but she bungled her media relations by claiming that the Delaware race was nobody’s business but Delaware’s – and then proceeded to accept more than $3.5 million in out-of-state campaign donations. She lost because she spat in the face of  the state and national Republican Party organizations on virtually every issue. Most importantly, she lost because she failed to connect with Delaware’s most sought-after voter base: non-Republicans and moderates. She spent far too much time with her base — a great primary strategy — but never really moved beyond that political comfort zone. Clearly, like her six falsified college attendance claims, Christine O’Donnell didn’t learn from her earlier failures, much less her one earlier success.

Just to put some context to her performance, in Tuesday night’s general election, she received fewer votes (123,025) than Terri Conant, Delaware County’s Dog Warden (159,627). That’s not good. That’s not even competitive. But it is funny. I’ve said all along that Christine O’Donnell isn’t qualified to be elected dog catcher, and her vote count literally proves it. Admittedly, a lot of what gave Christine O’Donnell her 15 minutes of fame (we can hope that’s all she gets, but we all know that within a week or two, she’ll be Fox News’ newest “political contributor”) was based on comedian-hyped samplings of her own statements.

However, she didn’t do herself any favors by not denouncing some rather incendiary accusations about Republican Mike Castle’s sexual orientation that came from her camp. She insisted that her inane and bordering on bat-sh*t crazy claims about human brains in mice and evolution being a myth were right and that reality was wrong. She proved without question that she is as unfamiliar with the content of the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court cases as her role-model (on the day of her candidacy announcement, I nicknamed her “Palin 2.0”) is about the role of the vice president and how one acquires foreign affairs experience. So, the game was afoot early, and the typical Delaware rules of civility and honesty — not to mention anything resembling common sense, or basic civics knowledge — went right out the window. The fact that she refused — not declined, but REFUSED, to give a concession speech, tells you more about her character than any of her idiotic “I’m you” commercials.

Some very basic facts about Delaware – mainly that the state has traditionally and historically always leaned largely Democrat and it’s voters like political charlatans almost as much as they like child molesters – scream one clear message to Delaware’s Republican candidates: “Far right is far wrong!”  Both O’Donnell — and her equally strategically clueless Republican colleague Glen Urquhart — failed miserably at this. Failed? Hell, they patently refused to even consider the slightest move toward center, and it cost them what might otherwise have been a victory.

Suffice to say, that all of this stuff is a pittance compared to the fact that O’Donnell and Urquhart didn’t align their campaigns with what Delawarians wanted to talk about. They both sought national attention (which they quickly eschewed when they embarrassed themselves) using tired, error-ridden rhetoric about “Obamacare,” “Pelosi regimes,” “Harry Reid,” and “big government” and every other right wing catch phrase and buzz word that was fed to them, in a state that still holds the offices of President and Vice President in relatively high regard. Had they both toned things down, abandoned the Glenn Beckisms and worked on a simple, basic command of the issues, they might have had a chance … sort of the like the chance the Red Sox had at a World Series berth this year: A *lot* of things would have had to go wrong for the opposition in order for them to win. But the Red Sox aren’t from Delaware, and Christine O’Donnell isn’t Yankees. Christine O’Donnell is more like a Special Olympics dodgeball second-stringer.

The Senate election in Delaware wasn’t about Mike Castle, Joe Biden, President Obama, incumbents, anger over the economy, the Tea Party, or a 10% unemployment rate. It was about two candidates; one who knew his audience, and one who bought into the Rovian school of scare tactics, misinformation and a core belief that calling the other guy a boogeyman and giving no legitimate answers to some ridiculously simple, fundamental issue questions could change the minds of the Delaware electorate.