Alaska and Delaware: No Clear Indication of Outcomes in the General Election

Stomach-punched into depression by that bruising Republican primary for Delaware’s open U.S. Senate seat, Rep. Mike Castle (R) chewed on an independent write-in bid for the general election. The name-brand Delaware politician – who also served two years as Governor – refused to endorse the new school Tea Party upstart-turned-GOP-nominee Christine O’Donnell after his embarrassing defeat to her.
For a minute, before he self-punked himself this past week by dropping out, the First State’s Castle political machine appeared poised for a knuckle-up against both O’Donnell and the equally popular New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D). Old school in-the-box conventionalism probably stepped in because some felt Castle has a good shot. For one, his name was easy to spell in a state of three counties familiar with the strong name ID. And, there is skepticism that, regardless of all this talk about O’Donnell as an injection of fresh and new, it’s abundantly tough for a rabble-rousing conservative firebrand to get elected in a place like Delaware. The upsets we’ve witnessed thus far on the political landscape might be dramatic and a sign of voter discontent, but they are no clear indication of outcomes in the general election.
Still, O’Donnell is enjoying a lead in public relations, national attention drawn to her unorthodox political profile. Negative publicity, Bill Maher’s clown notwithstanding, is better than none. For candidates, that fuels campaign contributions, cash that comes in handy in that expensive Philadelphia-area media market.
But, there is a larger cautionary tale emerging from the Castle bid that merits further examination. On the other side of the continent is bitter incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who lost a hotly contested Alaska Senate primary to an underfunded Joe Milller (R), candidate backed by Palin. Murkowski’s last stand effort at a write-in campaign possibly overestimates her name ID – since it’s not as easy to spell as Castle. But, the underlying point, in comparing Murkowski and Castle, is that we may be seeing a movement of moderate Republicans becoming Independents, forced out of necessity to create an unofficial “third party” movement.
We’re already seeing real signs of that in current Gov. Charlie Crist’s (I) non-write-in bid for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat as a former GOP insider who one day grew tired of uncertain back-and-forth with stalwart conservative peers. Clearly, irate and impatient red state activists on the right liked what they saw in Marco Rubio. Crist would have watched in futility as his chances for Senate retirement would have disintegrated in the cauldron of primary day tempestuousness.
There is something attractive about that, particularly considering recent Gallup surveys that show 58% of Americans are open to the proposition of a third party. Still, this is not the third party expected; folks probably think of brand new political activists hitting the scene to pitch larger themes of reform and the extinction of the “career politician.” In these instances, you have career politicians desperate to save their gigs. But, it’s still refreshing that high profile candidates are leaning in that direction in attempts that could encourage the larger body politic to think outside of the electoral box and seriously consider third party bids.
The Tea Party itself is a third party movement, spawning fractious offshoots from a tattered Republican Party collapsing on itself. Although conventional wisdom is quick to call it a “wing” of the GOP.  By Charles D. Ellison

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