Can Christine O'Donnell Defeat Her Past?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 13 2010 9:42 AM

Can Christine O'Donnell Defeat Her Past?

The new survey from Public Policy Polling, which has inspired some real fear from Republican strategists and conservative pundits, has Christine O'Donnell surging to a margin-of-error three point lead in Delaware's GOP primary for U.S. Senate. Compare this to the Tea Party Express poll of the race from September 3:

Christine O'Donnell - 47 (+6)
Mike Castle - 44 (+1)

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What happened in the past week? Sarah Palin endorsed O'Donnell, yes. But Mike Castle also went on the air with ads ripping O'Donnell on her financial and legal history -- she had student loans for years, and she sued a former employer , the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, over discrimination, a big conservative faux pas. Are the ads not working?

I think what we're seeing here is political perpetual motion. O'Donnell only started getting national attention two weeks ago. Republicans tried to smother that attention by making opinion leaders aware of her problems; they were aided in this by the fact that O'Donnell, before she started to surge, fibbed about how successful her 2008 campaign for U.S. Senate was. (She said she won two of three counties; she lost all three although she nearly won conservative Sussex.)

Why hasn't the attention sunk her? Because the assault was so sudden that I don't think enough conservative voters (we don't know yet -- wait 36 hours!) bought it. They had never seen Mike Castle run a negative ad before, and all of a sudden he was piling on this nice woman they voted for in 2008? She was being maligned on national news and slammed on A-1 of the News Journal? When I was in Delaware , I met conservative voters who supported O'Donnell BECAUSE she was attracting this anger from the "liberal media" out of nowhere.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.