Christine O'Donnell Versus Christine O'Donnell

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 2 2010 10:56 AM

Christine O'Donnell Versus Christine O'Donnell

The Mike Castle Death Star -- please hit me up if you have a better name -- zooms on as everyone in Washington is mysteriously tipped off to a bristling interview between Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell and Newsradio WGMD host Dan Gaffney. O'Donnell, expecting softer treatment from a host who endorsed her long-shot 2006 bid for Senate (she lost in the GOP primary), is taken aback when Gaffney uses oppo against her.

First up -- a tape of O'Donnell telling an audience that she "won two counties" in her 2008 sacrificial lamb bid against Joe Biden. Now, if you know Delaware, even if O'Donnell had won Kent and Sussex counties, that would have been unimpressive. New Castle County has 2/3 of the state's voters, and Democrats regularly win statewide elections by racking up votes there while losing "lower, slower Delaware." But in fact, O'Donnell lost Kent handily and lost Sussex by only 272 votes . She explains this away as a gaffe.

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Next, Gaffney attacks O'Donnell over her outstanding 2008 campaign debts.

"Isn't this what's wrong with Washington, D.C.," he asks, "that we borrow money and can't pay off our old debts?"

"Oh man," sighs O'Donnell, "are you kidding me? Is Castle paying you?"

What you're seeing is O'Donnell getting whipsawed by a dramatic change in the tone of the race. She campaigned merrily for a year, getting good receptions from tea party activists and occasional friendly coverage from talk radio and conservative media. Now, she poses a threat to an easy GOP win in Delaware, so out come the guns. She needs to do a lot better than this to survive the onslaught.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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