Wednesday September 15, 2010

ROUNDUP: Pro-Life Wins Big in Tuesday Tea Party Primary Surge

By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 15, 2010 ( – Big Tea Party wins on Tuesday translated also into pro-life victories in several states as Tea Party candidates running in Republican primaries beat out GOP establishment opponents. Here is a quick round up for Tuesday’s election results and what they mean for the pro-life movement as the U.S. moves closer to the November 2 general election.

DELAWARE: Pro-life Christine O’Donnell cruised to victory over pro-abortion and self-described “moderate” Congressman Mike Castle, the Delaware GOP’s pick for U.S. Senate, with 53.1 percent to 46.9 percent of the vote.

Castle had the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, chaired by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, and was believed to be a candidate that could beat Democrat and county executive Chris Coons for the Senate seat once held by now-Vice President Joe Biden.

O’Donnell got a big boost from the Tea Party Express endorsement, and more endorsements from U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the National Rifle Association, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. O’Donnell gained pro-life/pro-family backing from the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee dedicated to putting pro-life women in Congress, and Concerned Women for America.

The race itself was a slugfest. Castle refused to debate O’Donnell even once, in order to keep her political profile low, but then started heavily attacking O’Donnell in negative ads after the Palin-supported Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller pulled off an upset over the GOP incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska primary. Besides the Tea Party, Miller credited pro-life individuals with helping put him over the top of Murkowski, whose record leaned toward abortion rights in the Senate.

O’Donnell, however, never answered satisfactorily questions regarding her persistent misrepresentation of facts, such as her claim that she won two out of three Delaware counties in her 2008 race against Biden (she did not win any) and that her firing by Intercollegiate Studies Institute cost her Master’s program at Princeton (she did not yet have a Bachelor’s degree at the time). O’Donnell’s financial history also gave her the appearance of a professional candidate: the Weekly Standard reported O’Donnell’s financial disclosure forms showed she made just $5800 and was using campaign funds to pay her rent on her residence, which doubled as campaign headquarters.The Weekly Standard has more here and here.

While these factors did not seem to affect GOP voters in the primary, they are likely to re-emerge in the general election, when the Democratic machine goes looking to exploit effectively O’Donnell’s vulnerabilities. A Public Policy Polling survey shows Coons leading O’Donnell 50 percent to 34 percent, whereas Castle would have had a 45 percent to 35 percent edge over Coons.

Needless to say, O’Donnell is the candidate and there are six weeks to November. Good news for O’Donnell: after her win, she received a big influx of online donations – $500,000 in one day – that crashed her website temporarily. Even the NRSC came round this morning and cut her a $42,000 check.

Bad news: Mike Castle is refusing to endorse O’Donnell’s campaign, and that may prove fatal in liberal Delaware where she faces an uphill fight.

FLORIDA: No primary here, but a new poll shows very good news for pro-life and Tea Party-backed candidate Marco Rubio, who is the GOP’s candidate for U.S. Senate. An Ipsos poll shows Rubio now leading independent candidate Gov. Charlie Crist among likely voters, 40 percent to 26 percent. Democrat candidate Kendrick Meek follows third in line with 21 percent.

Crist had abandoned the GOP primary race with Rubio after polls showed he trailed the Tea Party challenger by 20 points or so. He then decided to run as an Independent, and later abandoned his GOP registration in May. While Crist held a nominally pro-life position, he had indicated that while he was personally pro-life, he would not seek to overturn Roe v. Wade. Crist further chagrined state pro-life groups in June when he vetoed a law that would require abortionists to give women an ultrasound before performing an abortion. The move was probably not all that surprising since just a few days before he dropped the pro-life/pro-family issue page of his campaign website.

Now it looks like Crist is poised to alienate GOP voters even further, especially pro-family conservatives that still may be hanging on to his candidacy. The governor is weighing whether to drop an appeal to a judge striking down Florida’s ban on homosexual adoptions.

“As I think most of us learned in life, the older you get, the more tolerant you become and the less judgmental you are, and that’s called wisdom,” Crist was quoted as telling a local journal, Florida Today.

New York: Buffalo businessman and lawyer Carl Paladino has now given pro-life New Yorkers a governor’s race worth watching. The brassy billionaire fought tooth and nail to get his name on a primary, let his Tea Party colors fly, and gathered together a pro-life coalition before trouncing former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio in Tuesday’s primary.

Paladino gained 63 percent of the vote to Lazio’s 37 percent – a crushing defeat for Lazio, who is generally a supporter of legal abortion, given that at one time in the race he was leading Paladino by 30 points. A poll just released before the primary showed Paladino had closed the gap and the race was a toss-up – not a landslide as Tuesday showed.

By refusing to debate Paladino and cut off his momentum, Lazio appears to have made the same mistake as Lisa Murkowski and Mike Castle.

“If we’ve learned anything tonight, it’s that New Yorkers are mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!” Paladino told supporters in a victory speech. He told them that the “ruling class” got the message in New York that “a peoples’ revolution” was underway. (A copy is available here)

Lazio, however, will still remain on the Nov. 2 ballot as the Conservative Party candidate.

Paladino, a Buffalo developer, has drawn flak for a number of missteps. New York media outlets have reported that he sent out racist and sexist emails as jokes to co-workers (some of which contained inappropriate images), compared Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to “the Anti-Christ,” and even suggested renovating the prisons to provide job training and hygiene improvement for the destitute.

Paladino addressed those issues by saying, “I confess to being human and imperfect, as are all of God’s children.”

Overall, Paladino’s economic plan to revitalize New York, which includes a ten percent across the board reduction in taxes, and no kid gloves approach, won the day over Lazio, who was remembered for his poor performance against former First Lady Hilary Clinton in the 2000 US Senate race.

Paladino has made no bones about his pro-life convictions. He told CNN’s Rick Sanchez in an interview that he supported an unborn child’s right to life, even in cases of rape and incest, and said that the baby could be adopted if the mother did not wish to keep her child.

In May, Paladino formed the “Pro-Life Coalition for Carl” with New York pro-life leaders and pledged to work for parental notification laws for minors, promote adoption, sexual abstinence programs, cut state funding for abortion and contraceptive services, and favor adult stem-cell research. His platform can be found here.

But while he opposes same-sex “marriage,” Paladino has said he has no problem allowing civil unions to remain legal in New York at the moment.

Now he faces Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a big supporter of legal abortion and special rights for homosexuals. Paladino has challenged Cuomo to an unlimited number of debates, and it is up to Cuomo to weigh whether to accept the challenge. However Cuomo has a massive war chest for a campaign: $24 million. Paladino has pledged up to $10 million of his own money for the race.

Quinnipiac shows Cuomo leading Paladino 2 – 1. But given Paladino’s ability to wage an effective come from behind win over Lazio, Cuomo will definitely be in for a challenging race.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: A narrow (sort of) Tea Party loss in the GOP Senate primary in New Hampshire also turns up a pro-life win.

Pro-life attorney General Kelly Ayotte, backed by Sarah Palin as a conservative “Granite Grizzly” and endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List, eked out a win by 1,667 votes over pro-life Ovide Lamontagne, who had much Tea Party backing, including Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck of Colorado.

Lamontagne graciously conceded and said he would “humbly accept the verdict” rather than seek a recount of the votes, according to the Manchester Union-Leader. Lamontagne had the legal right to request a recount, since the difference between the two candidates was within the margin of 1.5 percent.

As far as Tea Party politics go, Lamantagne’s defeat is not a strict Tea Party loss, nor mere GOP establishment victory. A Public Policy Polling showed that going into the primary election, Ayotte actually led Lamontagne 38 percent to 37 percent among Republicans identifying themselves as Tea Partiers.

Politics Daily reports that James Pindell, political director for New Hampshire television station WMUR, believes “Palin muddied the waters” by endorsing Ayotte. He said Ayotte never made herself a Tea Party target like liberal Mike Castle, and both she and Lamontagne shared similar positions on fiscal and social issues.

The pro-abortion candidate in the race, businessman Bill Binnie, landed in third place, after his strategy of casting himself as the most fiscally conservative candidate but supportive of legal abortion, completely fizzled out.

The race also proved that money does not mean votes: Lamontagne came in a close second despite spending only $500,000 on his campaign, while the victor Ayotte spent $3 million. The third place win was the most expensive of all: Binnie burned $6 million to get voters to approve a “pro-choice, conservative” candidate. For now that does not seem to be a winning narrative in New Hampshire.

Ayotte now goes on to face pro-abortion Democrat and Congressman Paul Hodes, who ran unopposed in his party’s primary.

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