Can the lessons of 1860 help Republicans this November?

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Tea Party-backed candidate Christine O’Donnell caused a national stir this week after she beat out nine-term GOP congressman Mike Castle in a Republican primary for Vice President Biden’s vacated senate seat in Delaware.   Mr. Biden held the democratically controlled seat for 35 years until he was elected vice president in 2008.

Political pundits favored Castle as a shoo-in against Democratic candidate Chris Coons this November, a potential triumph for the Republican Party, who is trying to take back control of Congress from the Democrats. This Tea Party victory has thrown a monkey wrench at the GOP’s hopes for winning the Delaware senate seat, prompting Republicans to turn their back on Christine O’Donnell.

The Tea Party has tapped into a growing anti-incumbent backlash among the American people, although most candidate positions favor the extreme right, representing a very small portion of the electorate resulting in unwinnable elections, at least in theory. Tea Party platforms range from eliminating social security to repealing healthcare legislation.

This has caused major problems for Republicans, who have been trying to tap into this sentiment with its obstructionist “no” strategy, knocking down most of President Obama’s healthcare and economic initiatives.

The Republicans have been here before, although it was 150 years ago when the GOP united itself under President Abraham Lincoln incorporating the Whig and Know-Nothing parties. Keeping the party together however, was a challenge for Lincoln during the 1860 election, despite a fractured Democratic Party. Abraham Lincoln was elected on November 6, 1860 beating Northern Democrat Stephen A. Douglas and Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge.

The midterm elections of 2010 for Republicans are somewhat reminiscent of the GOP’s struggle in 1860. No doubt the Tea Party is siphoning Republican candidates moving into the general election this year. The GOP needs to determine how it will incorporate The Tea Party into its fold or break ranks altogether. Either way, the GOP needs to find itself again, even if it’s a century and a half later.

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