The Tea Party triumph of Christine O’Donnell in a small pool of conservatives in Delaware over moderate Mike Castle has led the bulk of the Republican Party to run screaming in the other direction. The NRSC, the Republican campaign arm in the Senate, gave the most cursory congratulatory statement I’ve ever seen, and followed it up by suggesting that Jim DeMint could finance O’Donnell’s general election campaign, because they’re certainly not dropping a dime. Mike Castle, the vanquished longtime officeholder, sent word that he would not endorse O’Donnell. In the latest in what will be a series of bits of info on the anti-masturbation, anti-choice O’Donnell, she apparently doesn’t have much use forevolution. And the first set of post-primary polling shows Democrat Chris Coons up big.

Republicans more than likely cost themselves a Senate seat last night. Chris Coons begins the general election in Delaware with a 50-34 lead over Christine O’Donnell. Mike Castle would have led Coons by a 45-35 margin.

While O’Donnell may have ingratiated herself to Delaware’s small group of registered Republicans over the last month she’s turned off everyone else. An August Daily Kos/PPP poll in Delaware found her favorability rating at 23/33. It’s now 29/50.

Mike Castle voters back Chris Coons by 16 points.

O’Donnell, who does have media training as a Christian conservative pundit for many years, seemed unfazed by the pile-on, telling Good Morning America that she can win without national Republican support, that she needs just $1 million dollars in a small state to succeed for the next 50 days, and that people called Ronald Reagan too extreme once, too. It’s a fair point, but Reagan, well, won. This deficit looks far too big to make up in under two months, especially with the entire establishment deserting her. Dave Weigel, a Delaware native, notes:

I see a lot of conservatives arguing tonight that Christine O’Donnell’s victory shows that she can upset the establishment and win this seat. These conservatives are not from Delaware. O’Donnell won a slim majority in a race with around 58,000 Republican voters. She won Kent and Sussex counties, the conservative parts of the state. But even in scoring a massive upset, she lost New Castle County. That’s where 2/3 of the state lives, and where, in the past, I saw yards with Obama/Biden and Castle signs, Kerry/Edwards and Castle signs, Gore/Lieberman and Castle signs — you get the picture. There are tens of thousands of Delawareans who were expecting to vote for Mike Castle who are now given a choice between their workmanlike county executive, Chris Coons, and a woman who spent two weeks on the cover of the News Journal for stories about her trouble paying college fees, her lawsuit against her former employer ISI, her appearance in a MTV special about abstinence, etc, and etc, and etc. She got such rough treatment from the paper that she stopped talking to it […]

No one like O’Donnell, a pure ideological candidate, has won a statewide race in Delaware in modern times. Maybe she’ll be the first! But the most likely scenario is that a shocked Delaware electorate elevates Coons to the U.S. Senate while waiting to see if it can give Castle another crack at statewide office in 2012. It’s what we’re used to.

With the margins in the Senate likely to be tight, this one seat could be the difference in the majority, and Coons looks like he’ll hold it for the Democrats. What’s more, the Dems will most likely pick up Castle’s House seat in Delaware with Lt. Gov. John Carney, too.

I’m told by some Dem-leaning pundits that I’m supposed to feel bad that the GOP has gone to crazytown, that this portends unwell for progressive politics. I just don’t really agree. All Christine O’Donnell does is rip off the mask of conservative ideological purity, a mask that had already fallen off and was being stomped on for years. You may remember the Republican caucus in the House and Senate voting against pretty much every Democratic agenda item for the past two years, mostly in unison. Or a little thing called “the impeachment of Bill Clinton.” The only difference between O’Donnell and the “establishment” GOP is that she doesn’t hide her ideology. People should stop pining for some golden version of the Republican Party, a conciliatory, collegial team of problem-solvers. They’re not coming back. They haven’t been around for a decade and a half.

UPDATE: As if to underline the essential sameness between the “establishment” GOP and the Tea Party faction, the NRSC, fearing a revolt from the base, reversed themselves and sent a $42,000 check to O’Donnell’s campaign, along with a wider-ranging statement of support. A pittance, and this will probably end up the last communication between the NRSC and O’Donnell, but duly noted.

David Dayen

David Dayen