I know this distinction will get lost in the mass media joy at the ‘grass roots’ victory of the Tea Party candidate in Delaware, but national media focus on Big Themes, and I think there’s an important difference between the national Republican Party and the 50 different state organizations.
When national media are dissing “the establishment” in Delaware, they’re talking not just about the national Republican Party, but about state Party delegates, who are not “Party bosses” but instead are long-term GOP activists and loyal partisans who attend State conventions, show up to volunteer locally year after year, and know their state’s electorate and issues really well.
Those people supported Castle.
While Castle also had the support of the national GOP, grouping the individual activists who make up state delegations and the national Republican Party together and calling them “the establishment” while depicting the Tea Party as “grass roots” is not accurate. State Party activists are as grass as it gets.
Republicans are going to have problems if national Tea Party groups continue to helicopter in and insist they are the “activist base” and long-term State party activists are not needed or wanted.
Want to know how angry the state’s Republican leaders are at the campaign of Christine O’Donnell, the perennial candidate who is threatening Rep. Mike Castle in the U.S. Senate race? Here’s what Delaware Republican Party chairman Tom Ross told me last night:
I could buy a parrot and train it to say, ‘tax cuts,’ but at the end of the day, it’s still a parrot, not a conservative.
That, so far, is my favorite line of this election season.
Ross is furious because O’Donnell had no credibility as a candidate until the Tea Party Express, a California-based group, decided to target Castle, a genuine moderate who represents the last vestiges of what was once a thriving and honorable wing of Republicanism. Oh yes, and she also got the endorsements of Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). DeMint is determined to purge his party of anyone with the nerve to be – well, even a moderate conservative.
Ross notes that the state Republican convention endorsed Castle. These are not some shadowy party bosses, but, as he put it, “the grass-roots delegates who knock on the doors and pass out the literature and pound the pavements.”
Ross says he thinks it’s pretty nervy for “some group in Sacramento that doesn’t know our state to come here, destroy our civility, and tell the people of Delaware they know more about our state than we know.”