What Tea Party Express Did for Christine O'Donnell

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Conservative commentator Christine O'Donnell has pulled off the latest Tea Party surprise of 2010. How did she do it?


With a lot of help from Tea Party Express, the group that poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Nevada and Alaska, lifting unlikely Republican Senate candidates to victory over their established fellow partisans. Tea Party Express deserves the lion's share of credit for putting this race on the map and then winning it.

Here's what they did, exactly:

  • The group fulfilled its fundraising pledge of $250,000, which seemed to be in some doubt as criticism of O'Donnell mounted. A financial disclosure on Saturday showed it had spent over $215,000 at that point; when post-election paperwork comes in, the total will probably be just over $250,0000.

  • Three TV ads and three radio ads, knocking Congressman Mike Castle's conservative credentials, pointing out his support for TARP, and promoting O'Donnell as a fiscal conservative. The group bought air time in the expensive Philadelphia market as well as other areas of the state, according to a spokesman.

  • About five people on the ground. The Tea Party Express is small--about that many people, total--and a couple staffers went out to Delaware two weeks ago to lay groundwork. More staff flew in, having stayed in Alaska as votes were counted.

  • Attracted the endorsements of Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint, which they issued late last week. Palin communicated her desire for the group to get involved in Alaska, and it wouldn't be terribly surprising if some communication happened before Palin got involved in Delaware. Palin subsequently recorded a robocall and radio ad for O'Donnell's campaign.

  • Phone banking, both inside and outside the state. Tea Party Express set up three in-state phone banks with volunteers, but the group has far more many members outside the state, and a spokesman said it provided out-of-state Tea Partiers, upon request, with a total of 20,000 phone numbers of people to call in Delaware.

  • Worked with local Tea Party and 9/12 groups to coordinate volunteer activity, which included sign-waving at intersections in addition to phone banking, according to a spokesman


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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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