A sure-fire bet and cause for doubt

Mike Castle does not lose elections in Delaware.

I don't claim to be an expert on politics in the First State, but I read the paper there every day and the pattern is obvious. Castle won his first election in 1966 and he hasn't lost since then. He won the governor's seat easily in 1984 and was re-elected easily in 1988, after which he began serving in the House of Representatives, winning re-election every two years. Easily.

Seriously, the guy's never gotten less than 55 percent of the vote. Here are his shares of the vote in every election since 1980, when he was elected lieutenant governor: 59, 55, 71, 56, 55, 71, 70, 66, 68, 72, 69, 57, 61. One of the closest elections he ever had came in the year he was opposed by his former law partner, Dennis Spivack, who earned 43 percent of the vote mainly due to his longtime friendship with Mike Castle.

Castle will be the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in November, when he will be opposed by Chris Coons. Coons is a nice guy. He's smart and capable and respected. Unfortunately for him, he's also currently the executive of a county that is disproportionately dependent on real-estate transfer taxes, a source of revenue that evaporated two years ago, forcing Coons to make a series of prudent but unpopular spending cuts and tax increases.

I would say that has hurt Coons' chances in the Senate race, except that he's running against Mike Castle, so his chances were never really all that great to begin with.

I can only think of two people who might beat Mike Castle in an election in Delaware. One of those people is currently serving as vice president. The other one — hall-of-fame former UD football coach Tubby Raymond — is a resident of Pennsylvania and therefore not eligible to run.

Lately, however, there have been a handful of articles noting that several moderate Republicans have lost primaries this year to tea-party style insurgent challengers and that Mike Castle is a moderate Republican, and he's facing a primary challenge from a candidate backed by one tea party group. So perhaps, these articles suggest, Castle's election to the Senate is not a sure thing.

"Could Castle be next?" asks Public Policy Polling:

The Tea Party Express, a key part of Sharron Angle and Joe Miller's surprise Senate primary victories, is now setting its sights on the candidacy of Christine O'Donnell. She's the challenger to the right of Mike Castle in Delaware.

Since Public Policy Polling framed their headline as a question, let me give them a direct answer: No. Castle will not be next.

See, again, all of the above. Mike Castle does not lose elections in Delaware. He will win the primary in a cakewalk and then he will win the general election just as easily.

Yes, the supposedly fearsome Tea Party Express has thrown its support behind Castle's primary challenger Christine O'Donnell. But Delaware has several home-grown tea party and patriot groups and none of them has shown the level of enthusiasm for O'Donnell that the out-of-state group has shown. The local groups know O'Donnell as a perennial candidate and a professional candidate. Running for office is her day job.

In a 2006 Republican primary to oppose Tom Carper for the U.S. Senate, O'Donnell received 17 percent of the vote, then announced a write-in bid for the general election, in which she received 4 percent of the vote. Uncontested for the party's nomination to run against Joe Biden for the Senate in 2008, O'Donnell got just 36 percent of the vote in the general election. That landslide loss was her most successful campaign to date.

So again, no, Castle will not be the next Republican to lose a primary to a right-wing insurgent candidate. What's past is prologue: Castle doesn't lose and O'Donnell doesn't win.

Take that to the bank.

Except …

Except 2010 really is a dizzyingly strange moment in American history. Consider this recent poll result from Newsweek: 52 percent of Republicans believe that President Barack Obama "sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world."

More than half of all Republicans say they believe this. The same poll found that 59 percent of Republicans believe "Obama favors the interests of Muslim Americans over other groups."

EvilStupid So cue the theme music for everybody's favorite game show:

It's … Stupid? Or Evil?

Today's contestants are the 52 percent of Republicans who claim to believe that President Obama secretly wants to impose Sharia law.

I find it hard to believe that anyone is stupid enough to really believe such a thing. The Newsweek poll was conducted via telephone, so respondents would have had to recognize the sound of a ringing phone, be able to locate it, pick it up and converse with the pollster on the other end of the line. All of that would be beyond the capability of someone stupid enough to really believe that Obama is secretly trying to impose Sharia law. If you're smart enough to be able to work a telephone, you're too smart to believe that nonsense.

The stupidity required here is just too vast, too disabling, for it to be a plausible or a possible explanation.

And that only leaves one choice: More than half of Republicans are evil. They're lying. And lying out of malice.

Their telephone rang, they answered it and thought, "Ooh, here's a chance to bear false witness against my neighbor" and then proceeded to do so in the hopes that it will improve their prospects for seizing political power. Because political power won by deceit and malice is so very democratic.

I'm not the one who handed Republicans this rope. I didn't force them to tie it into a noose and slip it around their own necks. No one made them do this to themselves and no one encouraged them to do this to themselves.

So you can't complain about my identifying them as evil here — as awful, mendacious gossips with a contempt for the democratic process. This is information about themselves that they eagerly volunteered on their own. Given the chance to respond to a poll, they proudly seized the opportunity to declare to all the world that they are malicious liars willing to embrace any slander, no matter how ridiculous, if they think it might improve their electoral hopes.

As much fun as the Stupid? Or Evil? game is, there's also a third, hybrid option that arises as a consequence of malice which is, as I've argued before, that bearing false witness makes you stupid.

The choice to assert and defend ridiculous slanders or to cling to absurd pretexts for resentment and indignation will inexorably and inevitably make you stupid. You will, as a consequence of deliberate choices conducted with cruel intelligence, eventually become just as stupid as you are pretending to be.

And if we've reached the point where more than half of all Republicans are proudly, defiantly willing to embrace that kind of moral imbecility then maybe even Mike Castle's re-election can't be viewed as a sure thing.

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LBCF, No. 186: ‘Lone Gunmen’
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LBCF, No. 186: ‘Lone Gunmen’

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  • Philly Adam

    Yay Tea Party! Yay Christine O’Donnell.
    I hope that our host’s prophetic utterances continue apace!

  • MercuryBlue

    Between O’Donnell and Angle, and probably every other one of the–what did Rachel Maddow say, eight? however many candidates who beat the GOP-supported person in a primary this year, it’s looking like either the far right is deliberately sabotaging the mid-right or the far right is sacrificing the 2010 elections in an effort to look like a major political influence deserving of support in 2012. Not that those are necessarily contradictory.

  • Lori

    Apparently the RNC is flat refusing to support the O’Donnell campaign in November. As in she will receive 0 money from national. The Washington Post has pulled a bit of a Howard Dean on her by using an unfaltering photo of her yelling like a goof to accompany it’s story about her win.
    Apparently the GOP is finally wising up to the fact that even though Tea Partiers poll as nearly identical to Republicans on the issues, only angrier, they can’t actually be leveraged for GOP wins. The next couple months are shaping up to be way more entertaining than I had expected.

  • prior_approval

    Another blow struck against the Satanic majesty that is Halloween and the get something for nothing socialism of trick or treat.
    Not to mention another plank nailed into the Republican version of a house of horrors.

  • So Delaware goes from guaranteed GOP pick-up to possible Democratic hold. Well done Tea Partiers, keep up the good work for Obama!

  • Spearmint

    In Fred’s defense, Nate Silver got this one wrong too.
    Ah, the Tea Party. Shooting themselves and the GOP in the face since 2010. *grabs popcorn for November*

  • Robyrt

    This article was the first thing I thought of when I picked up the paper this morning and saw that Castle had lost.
    So, er, yeah.

  • I’d be interested in revisiting this post in light of yesterday’s primary results – only just saw it for the first time this morning.

  • Hamlet’s Shrink

    I look forward to your new commentary in light of last night’s primary.

  • Wenzer

    Um… Fred? Didn’t you say that Mike Castle would win in a cakewalk? WTF just happened?

  • JustMe17

    Why did Fred have to disappear now??? Please please please come back soon so we can hear what you have to say about these developments.

  • Ben

    Christine O’donnell won. We’re in deep crazy here, people!

  • Sarah Palin, and some late rush to the insurgent/anti-establishment behavior.
    The problem was… the moderates couldn’t be arsed to turn out, and the whackaloons are up in arms. Given that Castle looks a sure thing (or did) I suspect a lot of people stayed home.

  • HuffPo has some interesting observations on how it happened.

  • Happy is the happiness, happy if not accompany phenomenon accompanied with labor, then it will not only quickly lose value, but also can quickly make people’s hearts fall down.Do you think so?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Today’s contestants are the 52 percent of Republicans who claim to believe that President Obama secretly wants to impose Sharia law.
    We are now officially in Weird City.
    My objections to Obama were that he’s a charismatic pol from Chicago, where machine politics are a VERY dirty business. Nobody rises that fast in Chicago politics unless he’s got the machine backing him, and when that happens, you owe the machine bosses big-time. As in “bought and paid for.”
    The additional fact that he actually DOES have Nicky the Romanian Robert Redford’s Mind Whammy Powers (he can talks like a lawyer as in “can talk for hours and say absolutely nothing” while all his listeners go into orgasm like Bella beholding Sparkling Edward Cullen) is also a danger sign. Somebody who’s built his career on charisma and charm probably doesn’t have very much inside the outer shell.