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Jeremy P. Jacobs
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Jeremy P. Jacobs
Feb. 14, 2014, 6:31 a.m.

The Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ori­al Com­mit­tee scrambled on Wed­nes­day to tamp down spec­u­la­tion it would not sup­port Christine O’Don­nell in Delaware, even as her up­set vic­tory Tues­day cast doubt on the com­mit­tee’s en­dorse­ment strategy.

O’Don­nell used the sup­port of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Pal­in, Sen. Jim De­Mint, R-S.C., and the Tea Party Ex­press to stun the polit­ic­al es­tab­lish­ment when she beat the NR­SC-backed Rep. Mike Castle, 53-47 per­cent.

The res­ult rep­res­en­ted a sig­ni­fic­ant blow for the NR­SC, as Castle rep­res­ents the sev­enth NR­SC-backed can­did­ate who has failed to make it to the gen­er­al elec­tion. In each case, the NR­SC backed can­did­ates who were taken by sur­prise by can­did­ates to their right.

O’Don­nell is viewed as a weak­er gen­er­al elec­tion can­did­ate than Castle, which means the NR­SC faces a steep­er hill to pick­ing up Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden’s former seat — a lynch­pin of their plan to re­gain the ma­jor­ity.

On Wed­nes­day, the NR­SC pushed back against spec­u­la­tion it wouldn’t help O’Don­nell as she turns to her match­up against New Castle County Ex­ec­ut­ive Chris Coons, a Demo­crat. NR­SC Chair­man John Cornyn of Texas is­sued a state­ment say­ing the com­mit­tee stands be­hind O’Don­nell and it would make a $42,000 con­tri­bu­tion to her cam­paign, the max­im­um amount it can trans­fer.

“Let there be no mis­take,” Cornyn said. “The Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ori­al Com­mit­tee — and I per­son­ally as the com­mit­tee’s chair­man — strongly stand by all of our Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ees, in­clud­ing Christine O’Don­nell in Delaware.”

NR­SC sources said there was sig­ni­fic­ant frus­tra­tion as the race came to a close be­cause O’Don­nell sup­port­ers and oth­ers on the right sug­ges­ted the NR­SC doesn’t sup­port con­ser­vat­ive can­did­ates. That, they in­sisted, had noth­ing to do with the de­cision to en­dorse Castle, which was based en­tirely on their as­sess­ment that Castle was a more vi­able can­did­ate than O’Don­nell.

Still, the track re­cord for NR­SC-en­dorsed can­did­ates this year is not strong. Most re­cently, Sen. Lisa Murkowski was stunned by at­tor­ney Joe Miller in the Alaska Sen­ate primary. NR­SC-pre­ferred can­did­ates Jane Norton in Col­or­ado, Sue Lowden in Nevada and Trey Grayson in Ken­tucky all suffered sim­il­ar fates, los­ing in primar­ies to can­did­ates to their right.

Sen. Bob Ben­nett wasn’t able to make it out of Utah’s Re­pub­lic­an con­ven­tion and Flor­ida Gov. Charlie Crist aban­doned the GOP when former state House Speak­er Marco Ru­bio gained mo­mentum in their primary match­up.

It re­mains un­clear at this point what the NR­SC will do for O’Don­nell in the gen­er­al elec­tion be­sides cut­ting a check. Cornyn re­fused to say wheth­er the NR­SC would spend re­sources air­ing ads on O’Don­nell’s be­half.

“In the weeks ahead, we will de­cide where to best al­loc­ate ad­di­tion­al fin­an­cial re­sources among the large num­ber of com­pet­it­ive races at stake this Novem­ber,” Cornyn said.

At this point it is un­likely that the NR­SC goes in­to Delaware, but that isn’t a change in strategy. The NR­SC didn’t re­serve any time in the state when it looked like Castle would be the nom­in­ee be­cause the com­mit­tee an­ti­cip­ated Castle would have ample funds to air his own ads. If O’Don­nell does not ap­pear to be a vi­able can­did­ate in the gen­er­al elec­tion the NR­SC won’t want to waste re­sources there.

NR­SC sources in­sist, however, that if O’Don­nell proves the race is com­pet­it­ive, it is will­ing to go on the air for her. They also said they an­ti­cip­ate help­ing O’Don­nell raise money in Wash­ing­ton. Already on Wed­nes­day, Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mc­Con­nell gave O’Don­nell $5,000, the max­im­um amount he’s al­lowed to con­trib­ute.

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