Christine O’Donnell lost, and the fur is flying. Her Republican detractors point with pride to the loss, bragging that they identified a hopeless candidate and ragged her until she was forced out. Her proponents claim a consolation prize: they have at least identified the elements within the Republican Party most hostile to changes the tea parties might promote.

Lost in all that is a fundamental rule of politics that Ronald Reagan understood well, and exploited to build the coalition that swept him into office.

Two words, and the same two words I’ve repeatedly uttered:

Alvin Greene

Now there’s a hopeless candidate. BUT –

Once the primary was done, did Democrats get together to slap him down? Were there Democrats hitting the Sunday morning talkfests to babble about what a terribly flawed candidate he was? Did Democrats get in a war with their own factions about how the H*ll somebody like that could get nominated? Were Democrats getting together to chorus that the Party should have nominated somebody closer to the real demographics of the State, so Independents and Republicans might see a more attractive candidate?

Not only no, but H!ll no!. What they did was keep their mouths shut once the primary was over. They didn’t support their bad candidate — but they didn’t assemble in columns of droves to beat him over the head with sticks and lambaste the faction of their own Party that nominated him, either, because they knew, as clearly many Republicans do not, that that kind of teardown of a candidate of their own Party, however flawed, slops over to affect the other candidates of that Party — and you know what? Lightning has struck in a few places from time to time. Hopeless candidates do get in once in a while, if nobody rocks the boat too hard.

This is one of the dangers inherent in the primary process, and why smart politicians want primaries as early as possible. A primary is an election like any other, and is going to bring out bad features of all the candidates in it. Those bad features then become issues in the main election for the other Party, and smart pols want at least time for the mud to dry before tackling the hazards of the general. If people in their own party keep digging for more mud and poo to fling, it makes the general election almost hopeless.

The time for “opposition research” and resulting poo-barrages is before the primary. After that, either support the Party candidate or zip your f*ing lip, because opposition within the Party not only makes the other Party’s efforts easier, it has the psychological cross-effect of discrediting the Party’s other candidates, even in faraway places. That’s the rule Democrats followed in the case of Alvin Greene because it’s the rule that works.