Tea Party Express Figures to Make Good on Its Pledge


The Delaware Senate race has seen its ups and downs. The words "Delaware Republican primary" hadn't really entered the consciousness of anyone outside the state as of two weeks ago, and now it's become one of the bigger election stories of the summer.

That's because just two weeks ahead of today's primary, back-bench candidate Christine O'Donnell was endorsed by Tea Party Express--the group that poured hundreds of thousands of Tea Party-donated dollars into Nevada and Alaska to deliver two big election upsets this year--which pledged to spend $250,000 on her behalf. After that, all Hell broke loose.

It was suddenly understood that this race might be competitive, but no one seemed to know for sure. Call it the Tea Party Express Uncertainty Principle: once the group got involved in the race, observers had to assume that anything could happen.

O'Donnell's opponents began pushing out waves of negative information on her, having learned from the mistakes of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Republican incumbent shockingly taken down just a week beforehand by attorney Joe Miller. Tea Party Express had delivered that victory as Murkowski was caught flat-footed. Not Castle. His campaign allies became a fire hydrant of bad stuff about O'Donnell. A source with the Delaware GOP told me she was basically unfit to serve in any office. Lots of people had bad things to say about her.

After much of that information and commentary made its way to the press, observers wondered if Tea Party Express had bitten off more than it could chew, and if the group was about to throw away $250,000 for no good reason in particular on a candidate who couldn't win. No other conservative groups got involved in this race--not the Club for Growth, not the Senate Conservatives Fund--so it really was just Tea Party Express running this race on their own. The reasons those other groups had shied away appeared self evident. It would have been wise, it seemed, for Tea Party Express to maybe, well, not spend all of that $250,000. After all, no one could make them...

But on primary day, the Tea Party Express Uncertainty Principle is alive and kicking. Earlier this week, Public Policy Polling showed O'Donnell leading by three percentage points. There's been a dearth of polling on this race, but PPP has been on the money in a few Senate primaries this year.

At this point, the group figures to spend all of that $250,000. As of its last disclosure with the Federal Election Commission on Saturday, it had spent just over $215,000, leaving ample room to meet or surpass its pledge by the end of today.

It's also attracted the endorsements of two conservative stars, Sarah Palin and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who offered their backing on Thursday and Friday of last week. Palin, for her part, has recorded a robocall and radio ad for O'Donnell's campaign.

So Tea Party Express, assuming it hasn't cut off its spending in the final days of the campaign, has made good on its pledge of backing O'Donnell and, depending on the results, will likely succeed in its goal of making both Republicans and Democrats fear the anti-spending, anti-tax, anti-Obama power of the disgruntled right. Based solely on the PPP poll result, I suspect this election has already put the fear into many.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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