Posted: Sept. 7, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The clatter from the Tea Party Express could be taken a lot more seriously if it had managed to collect more than $80,000 or so for Christine O'Donnell in the Republican primary for the Senate.

That amount of money is hardly enough in Delaware these days to cover the costs of a decent campaign for state representative.

The actual spending appears to be even less. There is no indication of anything beyond roughly $30,000 committed to radio spots and downstate cable television, a blip between now and Primary Day on Sept. 14.

This candidacy is like the Y2K of politics. So much nervousness as the millennium approached. So many predictions that computers might seize up as they flipped from 1999 to 2000, taking out the power grid, making the air traffic go haywire and crashing the financial system.

Nothing happened. Ditto for Delaware politics.

This is really the state's first taste of an Internet frenzy. The political herd is in full cry, agog about O'Donnell, its doomsday tones the sort that make people want to run out and strip the grocery stores of bread and milk.

It would be interesting to find out how many in this Internet stampede could answer whether Caesar Rodney was a Revolutionary hero or a linebacker for the University of Delaware?

This is a race against Mike Castle, after all. He has won more statewide elections here than any other Republican in a dozen campaigns for congressman, governor and lieutenant governor. What he is facing now is nothing but a noise machine.

It should be remembered that O'Donnell ran before in a Republican senatorial primary. She got 17 percent of the vote and came in last in a three-way race in 2006. The winner was Jan Ting, a law professor who was not exactly Ronald Reagan reincarnated.

Jan Ting! For all of O'Donnell's fussing about Castle as "King RINO" (Republican In Name Only), Ting was even less than that. By the next election, he was a Democrat.

Ironically enough, the chatter about "King RINO" hardly can hurt. Chris Coons, the New Castle County executive who is the Democrats' candidate, is trying to make the case that Castle is marching in lockstep with a Republican national leadership far too conservative to suit Delaware's moderate politics.

An assault from the left and right does not put Castle between a rock and a hard place. It gives him a soft landing.

The way the Tea Party Express is operating, it is reminiscent of the story by Hans Christian Andersen, the one in which outsiders arrive and persuade the emperor they could weave him new clothes that only clever people could see.

Here is the Tea Party Express, outsiders spinning a candidacy that has so many others paying such clever attention. It was child's play to know the emperor had no clothes. Nothing to see here, either.