Washington: A little-known conservative activist backed by the independent tea party movement won Delaware`s Republican Senate primary, dealing a blow to the party`s prospects for winning control of both chambers of Congress.
The victory by Christine O`Donnell was the latest sign of upheaval in a political season shaped by economic pain and exasperated voters. The grass-roots, anti-establishment, anti-tax tea party movement can claim wins in at least seven Republican Senate races, a handful of the party`s gubernatorial contests and dozens of House primary campaigns.
The success of O`Donnell and some of other candidates backed by the tea party movement may hurt Republicans` chances of gaining the 10 seats they need to win control of the Senate in the November 02 general election.
The Republicans are in a better position to gain the 40 seats they need to take control of the House of Representatives.
Republicans had seen Delaware as one of their best prospects for capturing a seat from Democrats. But O`Donnell is less likely to attract the Democratic and independent votes needed to win the seat held by Vice President Joe Biden for 30 years.
Republicans Party officials have suggested they would not give O`Donnell funding against her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons.
Democratic national committee chief Tim Kaine told NBC television on Wednesday that O`Donnell`s win was a sign of the "civil war" in the Republican party. "That creates opportunities for us," he said.
With unemployment high and Democratic President Barack Obama`s popularity below 50 per cent, polls are predicting major gains for Republicans in both the House and the Senate.
The tea party movement has energised conservatives and could lead to a strong turnout for Republican candidates. But Democrats hope Republicans will be saddled with ultraconservative candidates, like O`Donnell, who may be too extreme for moderate voters.
Tea party-backed candidates earlier won Republican Senate nominations in Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky and Alaska.
In the fight for New Hampshire`s Republican Senate nomination, a second tea party insurgent trailed in vote counting that was still going on Wednesday.
After lagging in early returns, former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte moved ahead of Ovide Lamontagne with a lead of roughly 1,100 votes, with results tallied from 87 percent of precincts. Ayotte was backed by establishment Republicans while Lamontagne, a former chairman of the state Board of Education, campaigned with the support of tea party activists.