Dan McCarthy’s post on the Delaware Senate primary at the main blog made me realize that this will be a bad night for Republican militarists no matter the outcome. If the folks at The Weekly Standard have their way and Castle wins, they will have gone out of their way to advance the political ambitions of one of the relative few Republican House members to vote and speak against the hallowed “surge.” Honestly, I had forgotten that Castle was among the mere seventeen House Republicans who opposed the plan in early 2007, but I can just imagine how annoying it will be for all the hawkish Castle supporters to listen to Castle’s speech against the “surge.” There he was, citing the Iraq Study Group report war hawks hated so much, and then he continued on with his endorsement of a regional diplomatic solution! In taking this position, Castle wasn’t much different from many other mid-Atlantic moderates, including Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland. Gilchrest lost his primary in 2008 to a challenger who then went on to lose the general election to the current Rep. Frank Kratovil. By the way, that was another great “victory” provided by the Club for Growth. His opposition to the “surge” notwithstanding, I am not going to fall prey to the reverse of a pro-war Lieberman enthusiasm. If Castle loses tonight, it will be primarily because of fiscal and social issues, and perhaps because of the resentment many Delaware Republican voters probably felt at being lectured about their election by major outlets in the national conservative media. There will be no plausible way to spin this as a rejection of Castle’s record on foreign policy.
If Castle wins, the militarists will have defeated a candidate whose only statement on national security is that she “[b]elieves terrorism is an act of war requiring the full force of our intelligence and military resources rather than granting terrorists precious Constitutional rights and outsourcing our foreign policy to the U.N.” That’s the sort of rhetoric that would normally earn a Republican candidate the hawkish seal of approval: a nod to unilateralism and belligerence, the hint that indefinite detention and maybe even torture are perfectly fine for suspected terrorists, and a completely open-ended, perpetual war view of how to respond to terrorism. On the other hand, if O’Donnell ekes out a victory tonight, the militarists won’t be able to spin her very likely defeat in the fall as a rejection of non-interventionist or realist foreign policy views, because it appears that her foreign policy views, to the extent that she has any, are in line with theirs. If O’Donnell wins tonight, as she very well may (she is up by 8 points with 81% reporting), the militarists will have managed to show that they could not get their heavily-favored, preferred candidate across the line, and in terms of policy views they will be linked to a weak candidate headed for a landslide loss.
Finally, assuming that an O’Donnell win tonight means a Republican loss in November, that makes the chances of a Republican takeover of the Senate much worse, which will make it that much harder for the GOP to undermine the administration’s foreign policy.
Update: O’Donnell has won by six points (a margin of approx. 3,500 votes) with 99% reporting.