Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | September 16, 2010

Seriously: O’Donnell Can’t Beat the “Bearded Marxist”? UPDATED

I love Karl Rove to death.  (Who couldn’t love a guy nicknamed “Turd Blossom” by his boss?)  But in rendering his negative judgment on Christine O’Donnell’s electability, he seems to be taking a very one-sided look at the Delaware Senate race.

O’Donnell will be only half the equation in November.  The other half is New Castle County Executive Chris Coons.  As this Delaware blogger observes, Coons is a virtual unknown for Delawareans outside New Castle County. His national fame has been growing exponentially in the past 48 hours, however, as the blogosphere explodes with link upon link to excerpts from his 1985, Amherst-student-era oeuvre “Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist.”

Now, we all wrote stupid stuff when we were 22.  But it seems almost laughably hapless of Coons to have written his because he went to Kenya (yes) and came back with thoughts like these:

“I became friends with a very wealthy businessman and his family and heard them reiterate the same beliefs held by many Americans: the poor are poor because they are lazy, slovenly, uneducated,” wrote Coons. “I realize that Kenya and America are very different, but experiences like this warned me that my own favorite beliefs in the miracles of free enterprise and the boundless opportunities to be had in America were largely untrue.”

Naturally, Coons’ prior experience in the classroom had prepared him for this enlightenment:

A course on cultural anthropology, noted Coons, had “undermined the accepted value of progress and the cultural superiority of the West,” while a class on the Vietnam War led him to “suspect…that the ideal of America as a ‘beacon of freedom and justice, providing hope for the world’ was not exactly based in reality.”


Coons wrote that upon his return to Amherst for his senior year he realized that, while he had discovered the faults of his country, he had also “returned to loving America.”

Awesome, dude.

The thing about Coons, Bearded Marxist, is not so much that he underwent the celebrated, if-you’re-not-a-leftist-at-20 rite of passage.  It’s that he checked every block then, on the official One-Note Leftist list – and he has just kept checking them ever since.  Coons appears to be about as politics-as-usual, more-of-same, tax-and-spend-and-spend-some-more as it gets.  He’s an archetype.  He is, in fact, what an astonishing number of Delaware voters considered themselves to be rejecting, by voting for O’Donnell on Tuesday.

The Blue Hen Conservative (link above) has done some spade work on Coons’ claims about his performance as an Executive (i.e., supervisor) of New Castle County. Contrary to the theme of his TV ads, the Coons record is not one of improving the county’s fiscal situation. In 2005, Coons (elected in 2004) described the county’s fiscal position as “fundamentally sound.” By 2009, he was concerned that the county was “18 months from being out of money.”

This, however, was in spite of a series of property tax hikes that – in other states – would have gotten him tarred and feathered.  To save the county’s AAA bond rating, Coons raised property taxes by 25% just in 2009.  (After hefty hikes in two previous years.)  Meanwhile, says Blue Hen Conservative, the size of the county’s annual budget increased 33% during Coons’ tenure.  The tax hikes didn’t cover that: county reserves are now down 30% from when he took office.

Coons states repeatedly that he “cut wasteful spending” as county Executive, but the specifics of that outlined in this report on the 2010 budget involve 5% pay cuts for county employees and layoffs for paramedics in the training pipeline.  Spending cuts, yes – but wasteful spending?  On the other hand, here are some of the things the county council under Coons declined to cut in 2007.

It doesn’t help Coons at all that Harry Reid calls him “my pet.”  Besides being demeaning, it’s just creepy; but as Allahpundit suggests, it’s also tin-eared.  Statements like this one from Reid – “Chris Coons, everybody knows him in the Democratic caucus. He’s my pet. He’s my favorite candidate” – aren’t helpful heading into November.

Coons has more than two soundbite strikes against him.  If he has any personality, he can probably find an appealing joke in the “my pet” reference; and a lot of voters will forgive him the “Bearded Marxist” effusion from his youth.  Republicans should be careful how they hammer that one – a joke line featuring the Kenya connection seems most promising.  But Coons’ real problem in 2010 is that everyone knows him in the Democratic Caucus, and taxing and spending are his thing – and more so when the economy’s down, and the people are taking big hits in their own lives.  O’Donnell should concentrate on that for her serious themes.

UPDATE:  Coons blows this one big-time.  He could have boosted his brand considerably with a memorable joke about the Reid “pet” reference, but instead plays it straight by insisting “he’s not anyone’s pet.”  Reportedly this is being done in company with an attempted joke about an apology being due his wife, as she’s the only one who gets to call him “pet.”  Too fussy, in my judgment.  Lame.  Karl Rove should take his medicine now, and get in there and help Christine O’Donnell exploit a target-rich environment.

Cross-posted at Hot Air.



  1. I myself feel like O’Donnell has a sneaking chance of pulling off an upset here – given the political environment we’re currently in. Hey, if Sharron Angle can be in a virtual tie with Harry Reid (“pet” owner??), maybe O’Donnell has a shot in Delaware.

  2. Rove, Castle and the GOP Senatorial Committee may be smarter (or dumber) than we all think. Waving a flag at a bull (the Tea Party and fed up independents) would not seem a good way to curb his motivation.

    Is it a certainty that O’Donnell will really suffer as a result of being disavowed by a cynical old political hand, a squishy deal making 11 term congressman and a national committee of smooth bag men in this election year?

  3. With all do respect OC, I do think you’re being a tad to … um … optimistic (sorry). Depending on strong or weak a candidate Coons is (i.e. is he a less well established, less polished version of Blumenthal whose clutziness in a campaign where he is actually being … you know … challenged is a joy to watch) a conservative candidate like Joe Miller might have a very good chance even in so liberal a state as Delaware. Christine O’Donnell, unfortunately, is no Joe Miller. From what I’ve seen of her so far I’m having a hard time believing she has the candidate skills to accurately discharge her ordinance even at the many exposed targets Coons presents. Perhaps she’ll be good enough, especially with a strong advertising campaign (she should certainly have the $$), and Coons weak enough that, with a tick or two more to the right in the electorate she may get tantalizingly close. I’m certainly hoping and have sent her $50. I’m not, however, at all optimistic about an actual win.

    @Ritchie Emmons
    The fact that Angle is tied is a reflection of her weakness. On the other hand, the fact that she has, with all her flaws, withstood the massive barrage and remains tied is certainly a good sign and that’s certainly not worse than a 50/50 prospect.

  4. Yes, let us concentrate on Coons and try to ignore the idiocy of selecting Christine O’Donnell.

    Except…. why?

    Why should you ignore a lousy candidate to concentrate on the other lousy candidate?

    Why not bemoan that there is nothing good on the menu?

    • “Why not bemoan that there is nothing good on the menu?”

      Any political menu that drops a 22 year congresscritter is improved, even if it only has bread and water left on it. Failure to include term limits for the Senate, the House and the Supreme Court in the constitution may well have been the biggest mistake of the founders.

  5. Incidently, NRO has a quote from O’Donnell on The Corner that tells me she or her campaign manager are thinking the same way I was in the second comment above:

    “It’s no secret that there’s been a rather unflattering portrait of me painted these days,” O’Donnell said. “I am fighting two political parties here in Delaware.”

    She’s still running against both the Democrat and the Republican establishment. Given a choice she would probably want Karl Rove to continue to dismiss her as a contender.

  6. O’Donnell actually held up very well against George Stephanolopoulos’s predictable effort to sandbag her (re her slow repayment of student loans, etc.). She said: so I’m not a trust fund baby, and I’ve answered all those false accusations on my web site. And she spoke so fast (and, dare I say it, articulately) that George couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

    I think many of these attacks against her will fail. And if Coons tries to do it during the debate(s), he may have a Hillary/Lazio moment.

    But seriously: let the D’s focus all their demonization — and Emily’s List (misplaced) money — on O’Donnell. Better that than focusing on other races. And the R’s need to do what the D’s do best: control the spin. If she loses: well, she tried and those mean sexist D’s shot her down. If she wins: the D’s can spend the next two years fearing that she’s the new Palin.

    Right now, at least, Obama and the D’s are circling the drain. Consider: their celebrating the idea that they might — just might, mind you — keep the seat that Biden had held for 40 years.

  7. Maybe the fact that Angle had just come out of a bruising three way primary, and she had no money
    and Reid spent something in the neighborhood of 25 million on ads, had something to do with it. The fact that she is either tied or slightly ahead, is a good sign.

    • Yes it is a good sign and I imply so much. Still, given the immense unpopularity of Harry Reid the closeness of the race does not speak well of Angle’s candidacy.

  8. “I think many of these attacks against her will fail”

    If three or four bullets miss her entirely, so what?

    Some will succeed because the woman is not what people what to have representing them and it won’t take much to show that.

  9. Angle was considered a lost cause, until she wasn’t, yes Rove’s AC funds made that in part possible, which makes his statements the more ironic. O’Donnell doesn’t need the NRSC, and they have
    reciprocated only giving a token amount

    • At no point was Angle considered a lost cause. There was (and to a large extent remains) a great deal of doubt about her prospects. Yet she was always thought to have a chance and even when she was bombarded by $3m+ of HR spending and had not yet gone on air she was never more than 6 (or was it 5?) points behind and Harry never over 50. Quite unlike O’Donnell who was immediately down by double digits and unfortunately has some eccentricities in her record. As I say above I’m doubtful of her prospects of winning and am willing to wager that she’ll run at least 6 and probably 10-12 points behind Angle relative to their Dim opponents. (Again, I hope this does not completely preclude an O’Donnell win but the latter would require an particularly effective campaign on her part and a somewhat more favorable climate for Rs which would result in a fairly comfortable Angle win).

  10. anyone who raises property taxes that much three years in a row might just get enough votes to make sure he never comes back to Delaware, i.e., send him to the Senate where he inflicts less harm.

    I am certain that Amherst College alum Calvin Coolidge will come back to haunt Chris Coons for all eternity.

    Personally, I wish Christine O’Donnell well, not least to keep the national media off the New York governor’s contest where Carl Paladino can be a stealth winner if he manages to get serious without new expletives getting too much attention.
    NY has the highest real estate taxes in the nation because of the utter failure of both parties to ever deal with the Medicaid cost structure. Somehow, the passive majority who usually do not vote must somehow be roused to save what remains of New York (it really is a nice bit of geography).

    • K2K — NY is indeed a nice piece of turf. Like California, Washington, Oregon, etc, it and a whole lot of its people deserve better than leftist tax-and-spendery. But as you say, the people have to get galvanized and get out there and vote.

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