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Green Agenda Becomes Toxic For U.S. Republicans

Conservative Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell shocked the state by seizing a surprise primary victory over Republican Rep. Mike Castle, a longtime moderate lawmaker who suffered withering attacks for supporting cap and trade last year.

O’Donnell, a former television political analyst and tea party candidate, achieved an unlikely outcome despite being the target of a ferocious battery of assaults by Castle and the Republican Party targeting her personal finances, college education and ability to oversee public resources. Analysts portrayed the result as seriously endangering the GOP’s effort to beat Democrat Chris Coons, the New Castle County executive, in November to capture Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate seat.

Castle flatly warned voters in the days leading up to the primary that nominating O’Donnell would propel Coons to an easy victory in the largely Democratic state, saying “it’s that simple.” But those cautions were brushed aside, and O’Donnell exploited low voter turnout and rules barring independents from casting Republican ballots to seize 53.1 percent of the votes. Castle, whose career includes two gubernatorial victories and nine terms in Congress, captured 46.9 percent. It is his first loss.

“Republicans are in big trouble,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of The Cook Political Report. “They would not be favored to win this race anymore. She is a deeply flawed candidate.”

O’Donnell’s victory accelerates the pace of the tea party movement, adding to electoral successes in Utah, Kentucky, Nevada and Alaska. It also marks the first time that one of the eight Republicans to support the Democratic cap-and-trade bill in the House last year was cast out in a primary.

The race was a potent blend of recession economics, disdain for established politicians and sharp partisanship over the president’s policies on health care and energy. O’Donnell sought to excite conservatives by repeatedly warning that Democrats would proceed with major climate legislation, including cap and trade, after their numbers are reduced in the November elections, but before losing lawmakers leave office in January.

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