THE DELAWARE GOP: Gone Out Permanently?

By: Richard L. Abbott The Delaware Republican Party is a paper tiger (perhaps cub).  As Republican victories swept across the U.S. last week in a wave, little ‘ole Delaware was immune, in fact opposite from the national trend.  Here, Democrats made gains, almost taking every statewide office for the first time in modern history. Last Tuesday’s outcome was predicted and predictable.  For 20+ years now the Republican Party decline has slowly inched it closer to irrelevant status.  But how?  And why?  The answers are really quite simple if you analyze the last 25 years.
  1. Me, Not Thee: What Republican Party?
Too many Republican officeholders have focused primarily on their own political careers, with anything from benign neglect to outright disregard reserved for the GOP.  Eight (8) years ago Republicans held a 27-14 majority in the State House, but today it has flipped to 26-15 Democrat (a loss of 12 seats or 44% of the Caucus).  One cause: entrenched Republican Representatives bailing out at the last minute, without any advance notice or succession planning – all of their seats have gone to a Democrat.  In contrast, Republican legislators’ reasonable advance retirement announcements have resulted in Republican holds in most instances. In 1988, Mike Castle selected an older, novice candidate as his Lt. Governor running mate, squelching any potential for Republicans to hold off Tom Carper from running and winning in 1992 (and coincidentally or not, paving the way for ”The Switch” between Castle and Carper).  Even our beloved Sen. Bill Roth contributed to the demise, unadvisedly seeking re-election in 2000 rather than making way for Mike Castle in order to potentially keep the seat in Republican hands. The prime architect of the Delaware Republican Party in the ‘90’s, Basil Battaglia, also played a lead role in the Republican downward spiral. As Party Chair, Battaglia co-opted considerable Republican time and resources to advance the ultimately ill-fated political career of his son, at the expense of building a farm team for the future. A perfect storm of short-sighted decisions by Party elected officials and leaders has weakened the Republican Party.  Advantage Democrats.
  1. Non-Existent TV & The Increasingly Biased, Left-Wing News Journal
In New Castle County, the main source of political news is The News Journal newspaper.  While it was owned by the duPont family, “the paper” as we call it in Northern Delaware, was a beneficent purveyor of all sides of a story.  But 25 years ago it was sold to Gannett, a liberal media company.  And the liberal slant of news and editorial coverage began, eclipsing in this year’s prejudiced “smack down” of uncivil, personal attacks and outright misrepresentations regarding conservative Christine O’Donnell.  Advantage Democrats. We have no Delaware television station.  Period.  End of story.  So even a candidate that has money cannot make any campaign inroads with voters through the critical advertising medium of TV.  Advantage Democrats.
  1. Money & Registration: “Big Money” Republicans Die – Labor Unions Don’t, And “Motor Voter” + Migration Pump Up Democrat Numbers    
25 years ago, a long list of traditional Republican givers from Chateau Country existed – maximum contribution checks came in bunches.  The list is now very short, as the noblesse oblige attitude toward the Republican Party has died out. Meanwhile, political contributions from Labor Unions, who almost exclusively back Democrats, have continued unabated; union organizations have perpetual existence and their political spending seems to have increased even as membership has fallen.  A national network of unions “swap” contribution checks to magnify giving potential for local Democrat candidates.  Advantage Democrats. When Congress passed laws requiring State Motor Vehicle agencies to register votes in the 1990’s, it was vigorously opposed by Republicans.  And with good political reason; it would increase Democrat and Independent registration numbers.  Indeed, that it did in Delaware – big time.  Advantage Democrats. Pennsylvanians, New Jerseyans, New Yorkers, and Marylanders have migrated to Delaware in large numbers over the last 20 years, retiring, fleeing higher taxes, or transferring for job reasons.  The States they originate from are mainly Democrat and Independent, not Republican.  And their party registration and voting decisions have followed suit.  Advantage Democrats.
  1. 2010: A Sore Loser & Hypocritical News Journal Liberals Advance Democrat Dominance                                                                                               
It was well-known that 2010 would likely be a strong Republican year nationally.  And Mike Castle was the hands-down favorite to win the election for U.S. Senate in Delaware.  But he ran a disastrous campaign, full of lukewarm positions that ignored the obvious mood of Republican primary voters.  Castle voted against the two biggest Obama Left-Wing Programs: the Stimulus and Obama-Care.  But you would not have known that from Castle’s campaign.  So he was a sitting duck when to-be-expected criticism for his relatively inconsequential votes for the Bailouts and Cap & Trade came, enabling his opponent to successfully cast him as a “Liberal” in the eyes of primary voters. Then after Castle lost, he engaged in a 6-week public fit of selfish behavior which the liberal News Journal played up to help paint the Republican U.S. Senate nominee as extreme and strange, all the while failing to mention that Chris Coons was a “Traditional Tax & Spend Liberal” who would vote 100% with Obama.  So rather than focusing on the issues of the day, the race was transformed by Castle and The News Journal into a superficial personality profile comparison, enabling left-wing Coons to escape substantive voter scrutiny and thereby waltz into office a la Obama circa 2008.  Advantage Democrats.
  1. What Next?  Ideas/Issues: Personal & Business Freedom And Prosperity
Democrats believe government has all the answers.  Republicans believe government should get out of the way of individuals.  Democrats have Utopian ideals.  Republicans are more Darwinian.  The two parties’ foundational underpinnings are in sharp contrast.  And never has that contrast been clearer than today, as the once moderate Delaware Democrat Party has morphed in the last decade into a very Liberal, Left of Center political organization as one-party rule has taken hold in Delaware. America became a great nation based on a pioneer spirit, a strong work ethic, a free market capitalist economy, and a small government.  These characteristics are embodied in the Principles of Individual Freedom, Lower Taxes, and Less Government Regulation.  Our Republican Party embraces and stands for these principles.  They are time honored. In contrast, Democrats favor a more command-control economy, greater government regulation, and higher taxes – the antithesis of what made our Country great.  Democrats want to take a larger piece of the pie (i.e. a zero sum game), while Republicans seek to make the pie bigger so there is more for everyone (growth & prosperity).  So why would voters fail to see such fundamental differences between the two parties?  Because no one tells them, and lately Democrats have taken to talking like Republicans in campaign mode but voting like Democrats in office. As Republicans, we need to make voters aware of the Brand/Message that makes our party the party of Traditional, American Principles.  Ronald Reagan did this well.  A return to “Morning In America” is long overdue.  If done effectively, we Republicans can present voters with the stark contrast of ideas and issues which will help us prevail over the Welfare State mentality of the Democrats.  Let’s Hope our Party will Change.  Stay tuned.

27 thoughts on “THE DELAWARE GOP: Gone Out Permanently?”

  1. More than you. He was elected. He has tried to build the party. He is back for another round.

    You are doing what again?

    He has the problem down. Let’s see if we can get some great solutions. I am listening.

  2. Mr. Abbott:
    Your post although historical and probably accurate does not address the current problem and I find its headline problematic and insulting.
    “The Delaware GOP: Gone out Permanently? Well at least you put a question mark after the slam.
    We sir, are attempting to solve the problems, not create more. Either offer solutions or don’t give advice. Lead, follow or get out of the way. I’ve decided to lead and won’t give any credibility to those who offer negativity without a solution.
    You offer no solutions but instead inform us at the grass roots trying to rebuild the party of previous failures and of your intense intelligence. We don’t care how informed you are, we are looking for people who can offer ideas, people who thing positively about how to build a winning team. If you don’t have that, please keep your mouth shut.

  3. The first step is to diagnose the problem. Few leaders in our party have been so bold. Far from being quiet. I think he needs a megaphone to say wake up people.

  4. Correction, 8 years ago the republicans held a 29 to 12 advantage in the house, not 27 to 14.

  5. Anon , you are so demented. Rich Abbott took the brunt of the GOP attack by Gordon Freebery who then recruited Bill Tansey who was a democrat for 35 years to switch parties and Rich lost by 9 votes.

    The GOP has proven to be total incompetents when it comes to strategy or tactics except screwing candidates who don’t fall in line.

    Rich is a good man and does a great play by play.

  6. One problem is that NCC is stuck-on-stupid. A conservative talk-radio station in Wilmington would do more than 500 conservative politicians. Those intellectually ossified dolts need an education.

    “Hi, I’m from Wilmington. I like high taxes, atrocious schools, violent neighborhoods, crumbling infrastructure and the Almight State- so of course I always vote Socialist-Democrat, as did my father and my father’s father.”

  7. I’ve heard Rick speak several times about a conservative radio station in Northern Delaware. Some would argue we already have one. WILM is pretty much all syndicated conservative morning, noon and night.

    Starting a broadcast radio station these days is nearly impossible because both the AM and FM broadcast bands are full, with no open frequencies available for licensing new stations. AM licenses are particularly difficult to obtain because of their highly variable range (an AM station’s range can double or even triple at night over day time). The FM band is essentially filled to capacity because stations must be spaced 400 khz apart to avoid interference (i.e. 95.7, 96.1, 96.5, etc…).

    The only alternative would be to buy one of the existing stations in Northern Delaware, such as WDEL or WILM and then provide the required programming. I don’t think any of them are for sale or that they would be affordable if they were.

    I am not writing to demean the idea, far from it. I just wonder if Rick had any thoughts on how the obstacles could be overcome. I have been an on air talent before in college, hosting a conservative political talk show among other things, and would sign up for a local conservative talk station in a heartbeat in whatever role I could fill.

    So how do we do it?

  8. Michael, syndicated talk is fine, but what makes our little gem down in Sussex, WGMD, so great is the local flavor of it. The fact that your neighbors can call in unscreened and have their say is unheard of these days. It is one thing to hear Rush say taxes are too high, he is a millionaire, but when you are hearing the people in your community saying it and telling you who’s fault it is, that carries a lot more weight.

  9. So the times have changed – where are the moderate Republicans who could hold their own against the Democrats. Rehashing the past does no good after all the times have changes – the Chateau country no longer has as many members thus no easy money – ODonnnell couldn’t raise a dime in Delawwre and used out of state money – is that the way the Republicans rebuild for the future – I don’t think so – no one wants to take on the thankless job of being chairman and leading everyone including Rich wants to criticize. Come on people act not whine.

  10. “Michael, syndicated talk is fine, but what makes our little gem down in Sussex, WGMD, so great is the local flavor of it. The fact that your neighbors can call in unscreened and have their say is unheard of these days. It is one thing to hear Rush say taxes are too high, he is a millionaire, but when you are hearing the people in your community saying it and telling you who’s fault it is, that carries a lot more weight.”

    Frank you totally ignored the technical arguments In Mike Borgia’s post. All radio stations FM and AM must be licensed thru the FCC. Radio stations are assigned frequencies so as not to interfere with other radio stations. WGMD is not a statewide FM station because of it’s low wattage output. One can only get WGMD in Sussex and the southernmost areas of Kent.

    WDSD which is a 50,000 watt FM station can be heard statewide.

    I agree with Mike Borgia that a true conservative talk station could work in both Kent and Sussex but the issue is legal (FCC) and technical (Lack of available frequency space.)

    WDEL in Wilmington has a token conservative in Rick Jensen but he is about it when one gets north of the Mispillion River.

  11. Michael P. Borgia,

    I wanted to start a newspaper in 2000 after graduating from UD (I was an adult student who studied History and Political Science w/a concentration in journalism).

    The business model for such an endeavor was bleak, however, as ad spend and the internet wreaked havoc on traditional print journalism. I thought about going the ‘online’ route, but did not fully undrstand the ‘tech’ part of website design. I was the content guy, not the HTML/Java/Flash guy.

    I wanted to base this media start-up after Fox News’ model (a voice for the right-leaning citizenry of the Delaware Valley). There are literally thousands of people in Delaware that despise the liberal News Journal, as Rich Abbott pointed out in his post.

    At any rate, one does not necessarily need a radio station in order to espouse conservative viewpoints. One can creatively use YouTube (set up a broadcast studio in one’s basement and have on ‘real’ guests), buy leased air time on Comcast’s local channel 28 or creatively use Social Media.

    It’s all about the e-mail newsletter talking points, Twitter and FaceBook mailing lists and other guerilla tactics. Just think of it as a microcosm of what the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, GOPACs, and other 501-3(c) organizations do.

    Develop a baseline GOP/Republican/Conservative mailing list.

    Add Independents and other ‘Blue Dog’ Dems to the list.

    Use Social Media to ‘find’ new voter channels.

    Consolidate the Delaware conservative ‘blogosphere’ into a message board (interactive hangout).

    Then, write a daily ‘issues’ e-mail, FaceBook link or Twitter URL feed to all conservatives or potential GOP voters.

    In order to do execute this, however, means there needs to be a group of like-minded GOPers who can strategize. But the most important aspect is to find someone to help fund this endeavor via a foundation or non-profit organization, not unlike American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.

    In other words, finger pointing, playing the blame game and looking to the past won’t help any serious politico in Delaware. The Delaware Republican Party needs to focus, like a lazer, on a vision, mission, strategy and plan to avoid unecessary internecine battles within the Party. Establishment Republicans and Tea Party adherents must unite and focus on winning the war, and not be content with a mere Pyhrric Victory.

    Delaware is a Blue State. If the downstate Delawareans choose to spite the New Castle County GOPers or vice-versa, especially after a Democratic slaughter, there is no future for the Delaware Republican Party. There should NOT be any social conservative litmus test to join this team.

    Finally, the Delaware GOP needs to be forward thinking when recruiting future candidates (quality and broad appeal trumps sensationalism and prosaic every time).

    The Delaware GOP cannot acquiesce to the Democratic Party because we missed the Republican ‘Tidal Wave.’ Fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, establishment Republicans and Tea Partiers alike must crate their own ‘Wave’ and heretofore start waxing their surfboard forthwith.

  12. editorial correction: the word ‘do’ in the 6th parg. should be deleted. In the last sentence, the word ‘create’ is misspelled as ‘crate.’

    lo siento, mi amigos.

  13. The biggest obstacle is the Delaware GOP and its minions who block candidates who they decide are unworthy in favor of limp wristed fools who are ‘moderate’.
    Code word for they are part of the Republican fraternity which Reagan despised so much.

    Trust me, these fools are going to screw up the special election in the 23rd and the NCC Paul Clark replacement.

  14. This list of people responsible for decimating the Delaware GOP is small enough to name names. Most of us know who we are talking about. We have watched them jealously covet all the resources and power of the party for their own little stratified clique of aging wannabes. The occasional down ballot or “up and coming” candidate or two who they would get behind for real (with checks from Greenville and their tacit anointment signaled to the party sheeple) were inevitably wishy washy no names chosen solely because they posed the least threat to the clique. Wouldn’t want anyone getting any real traction or anyone they couldn’t control totally.

    Of all the one person who has done the most damage to the Delaware GOP, more than any 10 Democrats every could, is the never ending one woman plague called Priscilla Rakestraw. This woman has spent nearly 40 years as a vampire like entity slowing draining the life and the blood from the Delaware GOP. The decent public minded people who have fallen victim to her shameless snottery and backstabbing are too many to ever account for. She has driven away more good people than the party could ever hope to see again.

    Rakestraw is the single party player who has presided over the total decline and near death of the Delaware GOP. Yet even yesterday this horrible human albatross was on WDEL shamelessly spouting her same 40 year worn out song and dance in which she is the arbiter of worthy candidates as if she has picked a single winner since she glommed onto Mike Castle 90 years ago.

    This woman has personally turned the Delaware GOP into almost a 3rd party joke with her same nonsense year after year after decade. Now there is nothing left but ruin and yet she persists on and on like some kind of horrific unkillable movie monster.

    The Delaware GOP’s fortunes will never change for the better until Rakestraw is sent packing once and for all. Of course it will have to be a public humiliation in which she is carried out, crocodile tears flowing but filled with the same familiar acid against all the countless ingrates who never appreciated how much she has done for us all.

    With Castle finally gone we may have a shot at dumping this “Thing That Wouldn’t Leave” Rakestraw and maybe get down to business. It wont be easy after Rakestraw and her enablers have pretty much bankrupted the whole operation. Worse they spent the last 10 years stripping away anything and everything they could grab short of outright stealing even just the Republican moniker itself. There is almost nothing left to pass to any generation. She made sure that when it comes time she can’t have it — no one else will either.

    It will be at least another two generations before Priscilla Rakestraw’s damage and destruction no longer reverberate resonate through the Delaware GOP. If ever.

  15. Anon, I have no problem with you naming names, but I don’t want personal attacks. As you can see people even attacked me on the blog for other reasons so we don’t mind frank discussions. You may try it again, but let’s leave out the hyperbole. You think P. R, is the problem, just say it and explain why in a professional way. People will agree or disagree. A string of insults does no one any good.

  16. Mr. Abott, thank you for a thoughtful analysis. Delaware conservatives have been urged to move on; move on!

    It’s true that we do have to move on eventually, but until the debacle is analyzed, the troops will go forth only to get slaughtered once more. We need to take a page from military history, in which battles as far back as those fought by the Greeks and Romans are still analyzed profitably. The election battle was only yesterday, so it deserves studied attention.

    Polemical, I think your suggestions are excellent. Those outside the system have always used underground communications, bypassing fixed and decidedly unempathetic channels of communication entirely by means of pamphlets and so forth–sort of like the American revolutionaries who fought English rule or the Soviet dissidents who worked underground against Stalin’s rule.

    Your points about alternative media are terrific, and I hope the DE GOP and other conservatives pay heed.

    I understand and agree with David’s point that it is counterproductive deliberately to antagonize media such as the News Journal; but certainly we don’t have to court a press that is staunchly opposed to everything conservatives stand for.

  17. WILM is pretty much all syndicated conservative morning, noon and night.

    Syndicated conservative talk-radio is fine if used to augment local call-in talk-radio. WGMD is the model.

    Frank you totally ignored the technical arguments In Mike Borgia’s post. All radio stations FM and AM must be licensed thru the FCC. Radio stations are assigned frequencies so as not to interfere with other radio stations…

    Naturally, you buy an existing station.

    I don’t think any of them are for sale or that they would be affordable…

    How much is the very existence of the United States worth?

    The left has done a good job of dominating the media. Conservatives must reverse the trend- our very survival depends upon it.

  18. Please remember, I am not arguing against the idea at all. Rick is right. New Castle must have conservative talk with a local flavor, based on the WGMD model. My post was only intended to lay out the obstacles involved. If one does not know where and what they are, you will achieve nothing but to fall over them. Then to begin a discussion of how we might achieve what we want.

  19. Rick wrote in #21: “Maybe O’Donnell can buy a station with her book deal money. WCOD”

    That sounds good, but I suspect that a radio station would — unfortunately — cost perhaps 10 to 20 times as much as what Christine might hope to get from a book deal.

    Not that I am giving up. I never believe in quitting just because you hit a snag. There may be solutions if you keep looking.

  20. In was joking, of course…it’s been a while since I’ve shopped for a radio station, but I think they’re expensive. But, she could organize a LLP with private, conservative investors. It’s not that far-fetched.

    I honestly believe that NCC is stuck-on-stupid because they are simply uninformed and not involved directly in daily political discussions that local talk-radio provides. I believe wholeheartedly in the WCOD concept.

  21. I honestly believe that NCC is stuck-on-stupid because they are simply uninformed and not involved directly in daily political discussions that local talk-radio provides.

    That’s funny. We think downstate is stuck on stupid because they have right-wing talk radio. Although it is not clear which is cause and which is effect.

  22. To be filed under “almost useless” information, the call letters WCOD are already assigned to an FM station in Hyannis, MA (Cape Cod area). The letters appear available for assignment to an AM station.

    Alpha seems to be at a loss to understand the phenomenon of right wing talk radio. It thrives because its what people want to hear. And contrary to his/her/its opinion, people who listen to talk radio are among the most inquisitive minds that hunger for information, not “stuck on stupid.”

    It also explains why left wing radio fails. No one wants to hear the hate filled, class warfare garbage it pollutes the airwaves with. It’s why Air America died a well deserved death.

  23. Rick, I don’t know you, unfortunately. And I may act as a blunt instrument here and elsewhere when people are themselves behaving badly. Fair is fair.

    However, regarding your LLP idea, please email me at:

    I have *never* shopped for a radio station, so if you have any ideas or thoughts, I would really like to talk to you about the possibilities.

    I do believe that brainstorming can lead to unexpected possibilities.

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