Pointing fingers over Delaware

POINTING FINGERS OVER DELAWARE…. Jonathan Martin noted this morning that “the question over Who Lost Delaware” will likely be “the symbolic driver over intra-GOP debate for months.”

That sounds entirely right to me. The outcome in Delaware — Chris Coons (D) defeated Christine O’Donnell (R) by 16 points in the U.S. Senate race — didn’t dictate which party would be in the majority next year, but it nevertheless offers a classic example of one of the key GOP missteps of 2010. The seat was a guaranteed GOP pick-up, right up until Tea Partiers, Jim DeMint, and Sarah Palin rallied behind a lunatic in the Republican primary. An easy win for the GOP became a one-sided loss.

Plenty of Republicans aren’t happy about it, and some are even going on the record. The main target of intra-party criticism, South Carolina’s DeMint, this morning insisted the debacle isn’t his fault — O’Donnell, he said, would have won were it not for the party.

“I supported all the Republican candidates including Christine O’Donnell. Unfortunately she was so maligned by Republicans she never had a chance,” DeMint said. […]

“I think we did see in the wake of her primary when a number of Republicans said she was not a viable candidate … made it difficult for her to start on the right foot,” DeMint added.

I have no idea if DeMint actually believes his own rhetoric — the guy is pretty far gone, so it’s hard to say for sure — but the argument is pretty silly. Delaware never elects right-wing extremists to statewide office, and O’Donnell never really stood a chance. Whether Karl Rove said something unkind about her on Fox News the night of the primary is irrelevant — it’s not like a significant percentage of Delaware voters were watching anyway.

DeMint is loath to admit it, but Delaware went precisely how he intended it to go. The right-wing senator has said more than once that he’d rather have fewer seats, so long as they’re filled by hard-right ideologues, than more GOP seats filled by electable centrists.

Given that, he shouldn’t bother with half-hearted finger pointing; DeMint should wear this fiasco as a badge of pride.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.