The summer of 2010 has witnessed conservatives sprouting like green blades from the Republican primary field, knocking off incumbents and establishment-backed favorites who were once thought to have their party's nomination sealed up.
Far from his party's right wing, Castle has been known for supporting embryonic stem cell research, sponsoring a bill with Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette that passed the House in 2007.
But Castle finds himself suddenly up against a serious primary challenge, from Christine O'Donnell, a political commentator and marketing consultant who was described by state Republican Chairman Tom Ross as "a perennial candidate who lacks the standing in Delaware to get elected to anything." O'Donnell ran and lost against the vice president in 2008.
O'Donnell has been running since March, though major pollsters haven't been surveying Republican primary voters. Public Policy Polling shows her trailing Coons by only seven percentage points in a potential general-election matcup, 37 percent to 44 percent. According to The American Spectator's Robert Stacy McCain, O'Donnell has the help of online conservative activist Eric Odom, who helped facilitate Tea Party activism when the movement rose in early 2009.
But her candidacy was bolstered this week when Tea Party Express announced it would back O'Donnell in her challenge to Castle. That group is largely responsible for the (apparent) success of Miller in Alaska and Angle in Nevada, having poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into those races on their behalves.
Tea Party Express is aiming to spend close to $250,000 on O'Donnell's candidacy between now and the September 14th primary, spokesman Levi Russell said today. No one expected Miller to win in Alaska, but Tea Party Express spent over $580,000 in two and a half months to secure a vote lead on election night (absentee ballots are now being counted). They'll try to do the same in Delaware in a span of two weeks, concentrating heavily on TV and radio ads that are in the making right now. The group hasn't conducted any polling in Delaware; it's just going on the scarce public data that's out there already.
Castle, however, may have some ammunition with which to hit O'Donnell if she does surge, as some are now expecting her to, with the media backing of Tea Party Express.
"This type of malicious behavior from supporters of a desperate career politician is to be expected because he cannot defend his big spending, liberal voting record," O'Donnell said Friday when asked about past legal troubles. "Just because the lords of the backroom have an obnoxious sense of entitlement to promote one of their own, doesn't mean their gutter politics are in the best interests of the voters."
But given that O'Donnell and Tea Party Express (which was not aware of O'Donnell's financial struggles) are attempting to attack Castle on fiscal grounds, it seems Castle will try to use these shades of financial problems, with the help of some insinuation, to undermine a campaign of fiscal responsibility.