Tea Party Favorite Upsets Del. GOP Senate Primary

Virtually unknown a month ago, Christine O'Donnell rode a surge of support from Tea Party activists to victory in Delaware's Republican Senate primary Tuesday night. The results deal yet another setback to the GOP establishment in a campaign season full of them.

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In Delaware last night, Tea Party activists scored a big victory in the Republican Senate primary as Christine O'Donnell pulled out an upset victory over nine-term Congressman Mike Castle.�O'Donnell attacked Castle for being one of those so-called RINOs, Republican in Name Only. It worked.�NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA: Mike Castle was the establishment candidate. He had the backing of the state GOP, which basically saw O'Donnell as an unqualified, inexperienced annoyance, and actively campaigned against her.��

But over the weekend, momentum started to build for O'Donnell. She highlighted her endorsement from Sarah Palin. Last night her supporters gathered at the Elks Lodge in Dover to watch the returns. The first numbers came in. O'Donnell was winning.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

GONYEA: Then came a song for Congressman Castle.

Unidentified People: (Singing) (Unintelligible) goodbye.�

GONYEA: It was very early with just a handful of precincts reporting, but still this crowd sensed victory. Bob Benton from Magnolia, Delaware was there.

Mr. BOB BENTON: The liberals are on their way out.

GONYEA: As the votes were counted, O'Donnell's lead held. She won by six percentage points. Finally, the nominee�took the stage.

Ms. CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (Republican Senatorial Candidate, Delaware): Don't ever underestimate the power of we the people.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GONYEA: And O'Donnell spoke directly to pundits and others who say she doesn't�have a chance in November.

Ms. O'DONNELL: People have already said that we can't win the general election.

Unidentified People: Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

GONYEA: Still, polls in Delaware, where Vice President Joe Biden served six terms in the Senate, show that O'Donnell fares less well than Mike Castle would have against Democratic nominee Chris Coons. With Castle, the GOP felt poised to win the seat. They see O'Donnell's Tea Party conservatism as too extreme to appeal to general election voters in the state.�But Any Kremer, a leader of the Tea Party Express, says just wait.��

Ms. AMY KREMER (Tea Party Express): And everybody said that there was no way that a Republican could take Ted Kennedy's seat, and it happened.

GONYEA: But in Delaware there is a deep rift between O'Donnell and the state Republican Party.�Her relationship with the national party is just as rocky, which could mean no financial help.�

But in the crowd last night, nothing was going to dampen spirits.�Tony Semerairo from Georgetown, Delaware says�the tough economy means Democrats have a lot to answer for, even in this blue state.

Mr. TONY SEMERAIRO: But you know what, everybody in Delaware has something green in their pockets it's called their wallet, okay?�And this year, money issues, economic issues are affecting everybody.

GONYEA: And Christine O'Donnell will be trying to tap into that as she tries to pull off another big upset with or without the help of her own party.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Dover, Delaware.�

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