The victory last night of Christine O’Donnell over Mike Castle in the Delaware Republican Senate primary signals a sea change.  Not so much because O’Donnell won over the heavily favored establishment GOP candidate; that pattern is not new this election season.

Instead, the reaction of the GOP was one of immediately throwing O’Donnell off the ship.  Castle decided to be the sore loser and not endorse O’Donnell; Karl Rove went on Fox News to denounce her election; and the GOP has made it known that it will not help her at all.

Some of these decisions may change.  Castle’s decision was made through “sources” (I haven’t seen any reports that he made a public declaration of no endorsement); Rove’s statements could be written off as a blunt assessment of O’Donnell’s likelihood of success, not a personal attack; and the GOP may come around if her prospects improve (as happened in the Scott Brown race).

But the immediate reaction was very telling, and very damaging to the GOP. 

It’s not like the GOP couldn’t see this coming.  The most recent poll by PPP showed O’Donnell ahead by 3 points, and high-profile endorsements by Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint raised money and turnout for O’Donnell.

In many ways, I think I am representative of the electorate’s reaction to the race.  Two weeks ago, I was completely agnostic on the race, and really had not focused on it.  But I found it very troubling that the GOP establishment — and I include mainstream conservative publications — refused to address Castle’s very troubling policy positions, such as his support for Nancy Pelosi’s cap-and-trade bill. 

Every attempt to raise policy issues was met with personal attacks on O’Donnell, some of which were based on fact and some of which either were exaggerations or false.  It seemed like the only thing that was important was winning, even if it meant we elected someone who stood against us on policy.  The electability factor was a legitimate issue, but the stifling of debate over Castle’s record was not legitimate.

Christine O’Donnell may have flaws in her past, but in this election season people are willing to look beyond such personal issues when what is at stake is a Washington, D.C. two-party establishment which seems incapable of and/or unwilling to stop the train wreck of national debt and deficits. 

If the choice is between a flawed candidate who will pull the brakes and a less-flawed candidate who will not, I’ll choose the brakeman (or brakewoman).

And is there now a new purity test for the GOP?  Because the GOP never, ever nominates and supports candidates who are less than perfect, right?

We expect such hypocrisy from the Democrats, who were okay with a President who abused his power over a college intern to get blow jobs in the White House, and who lied under oath in a judicial proceeding about his harassment of a state employee when he was Governor.  He now is their only remaining rock star.

But if the GOP is going to go the route of stunning hypocrisy and pettiness, the O’Donnell race will turn out to be the GOP’s Waterloo.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The GOP can ride the wave or stand in its way.  It’s up to them.

If the GOP attempts to stand in the way of the wave … well, you know what happens to Castles made of sand.

Update:  Ed Morrissey is firing on all cylinders this morning (emphasis mine):

My advice to the GOP would be to quit whining about losing a long-shot bid to win control of the Senate and focus on actually winning the races….

What does Mike Castle’s crash and burn among Delaware Republicans say about their party organization?  After all, we have heard oodles of commentary about how Delaware Republicans are moderates who might get energized by the Tea Party but supposedly aren’t looking for conservative candidates.  Instead, they convinced Castle to leave a relatively safe House seat instead of looking for someone who hadn’t backed a government takeover of the energy sector in cap-and-trade (in a coal-dependent region!) and co-sponsored the DISCLOSE Act.  Perhaps had the GOP establishment listened a little more carefully to Delaware Republicans, who turned out relatively heavily in this election, they wouldn’t find themselves crying in their lattes this morning….

Grow up, shut up, and get to work.

And, if you don’t want to donate to the GOP, but want to donate easily to multiple conservative Senate candidates, you can go to the Senate Conservatives PAC website (overloaded as of this writing but should be back up soon).

And, that was quick:  NRSC backs O’Donnell, donates $42,000.
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