Republicans recruited an all-star candidate to seek the U.S. Senate seat in Delaware vacated by Joe Biden upon his election as Vice President. Republican Mike Castle had served as lieutenant governor, twelve years as governor, and nearly two decades in the U.S. House of Representatives from Delaware's single state-wide district. The Senate seat seemed a sure thing. Castle even ran Joe Biden's son "Beau" - Delaware's Attorney General and the heir apparent - out of the race. But a funny thing happened on the way to the election; Castle lost the primary to Christine O'Donnell.

The Tea Party movement along with Republican "outsider" leaders (2008 Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, South Carolina U.S. Senator Jim DeMint) and some traditional conservative organizations (National Rifle Association, Family Research Council, Susan B. Anthony List) propelled O'Donnell to victory over the liberal Castle. This left "establishment" Republicans understandably bitter. Millions of dollars, thousands of hours, hundreds of workers suddenly find their candidate lost. It is human nature to feel a little sour. But if Republicans want to win, they have to unite behind their nominee. When establishment candidates win, the outsiders have done it; but that should be a two way street.

Mississippi Republican leaders differ in their views of this Tea Party infusion into the party.

The Washington Post interviewed former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott - an "establishment" leader - earlier this year. He warned, "We don't need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples. As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them." The Post reported that Lott did not anticipate success for the Tea Party candidates saying, "I still have faith in the visceral judgment of the American people." Now Lott should tack on Delaware to other Tea Party (and often DeMint) backed Republican Senate nominees in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Nevada.

On the other hand, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour told delegates to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in April of this year, "How do we win in 2010? We stick together. We work. We organize. We campaign. We give. Some of you will even run for public office and we welcome every single one of you. Conservative unity has to be part of that conservative energy. The Democrats' fondest hope is to see Tea Party or other conservatives split off and form a third party." Barbour said it is fine if someone who has never been involved defeats a Republican incumbent for Congress in the primary: "that person becomes our guy, our candidate."

Barbour echoed those words in a column this week for the Wall Street Journal, "Every Republican should be pleased that these tea party candidates chose to run in our primaries. In the vast majority of cases, their participation was welcomed, even cultivated, by GOP leaders-and rightly so. When the Republican voters of a state choose a party nominee in an open process like a primary, we Republican leaders must support the nominee...the party's role is to abide by the decisions of the Republican primary voters. We have no right whatsoever to substitute our will or judgment for that of the voters. We don't have loyalty oaths in our party, so rank-and-file GOP voters aren't obligated to vote for the primary winner. We hope they will. But it is an obligation of party leaders and candidates who participate in our primaries to accept their outcomes."

Barbour noted last year in New Jersey, the more moderate candidate Chris Christie won the nomination and "conservative Republicans and tea party activists united with Mr. Christie's supporters to help him defeat Democrat John Corzine." In Virginia, moderate Republicans united behind the conservative Bob McDonnell. Barbour criticized Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for launching a write-in campaign after losing to conservative Joe Miller in the Republican Primary.

In Mississippi's First Congressional District this year, the three-way Republican Primary featured the establishment candidate Alan Nunnelee and two candidates each with their share of Tea Party type supporters: Henry Ross and Angela McGlowan (who received a late Election Day endorsement from Sarah Palin). Nunnelee won without a run-off. Once emotions had settled, both Ross and McGlowan endorsed Nunnelee. McGlowan, who has returned to her role as a Fox News Contributor, said on her Facebook page this week, "I have been pretty distraught recently regarding the fighting in the Repub. Party. Regardless of what candidate you supported in a primary, it is important that we unite behind the nominee. Nobody likes to lose a race - believe me - but if our party wants to win in November, we must unite."

A unified Republican Party will not always win; Delaware is a majority Democratic state and an O'Donnell victory there would be an upset on par with the Massachusetts win earlier this year. But Republican disunity is a clear recipe for defeat.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.