The Tea Party Express promised to soldier on in the wake of the Mark Williams saga, and today it made good on the pledge. For the first time since Williams — a former chairman and spokesperson for the group — resigned from the Tea Party Express, the TPE has endorsed a candidate in a Republican primary. The beneficiary of the TPE’s return to the campaign trail? Christine O’Donnell, the tea party-style conservative challenging Rep. Mike Castle for the GOP Senate nomination in Delaware.
As has so often been the case with TPE-endorsed candidates this year, the group says Castle must be defeated because he’s not conservative enough.
“We long ago announced our intention to hold Mike Castle accountable for his failed record in Congress, and now we have an excellent shot to make sure he is defeated by a solid conservative candidate,” TPE coordinator Joe Wierzbicki said in a statement.
For her part, O’Donnell seemed to welcome the endorsement from the group other tea partiers love to hate.
“This endorsement may prove to be a pivot point in the campaign,” O’Donnell’s campaign says on its website. A game changer perhaps.”So who exactly is the TPE showing the love to today? A political commentator, right-wing activist and “marketing and media consultant,” O’Donnell ran against Vice President Biden for Senate in 2008 (he ran a reelection campaign for Senate concurrent to his vice-presidential bid). She’s also no stranger to prominent wingers with a penchant for making offensive statements in public (like Williams). On her website, O’Donnell lists career highlights, including her time as a marketing consultant for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ.
Politically, O’Donnell’s stock seems to be rising with the conservative crowd. In a long profile published this morning, the American Spectator‘s Robert Stacy McCain writes that O’Donnell “has gained new momentum in recent weeks,” as conservative Republicans — no great fans of Castle in the best of times — have started to worry that his lock on Biden’s old Senate seat might be slipping. As evidence, they point to recent polls that show the gap between Castle and likely Democratic nominee Chris Coons narrowing.
Other national conservative groups like the TPE may soon hop aboard the O’Donnell train as well. O’Donnell told Politico last week that she’s “she’s been courting support” from tea party megastars Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Sarah Palin. A spokesperson for DeMint told the website DeMint was “extremely impressed” with O’Donnell.
Still, most agree that an O’Donnell victory in the Sept. 14 primary would be still be quite the long-shot. But by throwing in with O’Donnell just as her stock starts to rise, the Tea Party Express may be hoping to shake the week of scandals that left the group, in the opinion of other national movement leaders, on the outside of the tea party looking in.