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Christine O'Donnell: No Tax Hikes, No Abortion, No Masturbation Ban

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TALLEYVILLE, Del. -- Let's just say it right up front and get it out of the way: New Tea Party rock star Christine O'Donnell is a Sarah Palin-Michele Bachmann Republican and Democrat Chris Coons is, well, a balding middle-aged guy in a dark suit with a lot of degrees.

Just 48 hours after O'Donnell dispatched moderate Rep. Mike Castle in a bitter Senate primary, she walked onstage in a burst of glamour and color -- pearls, fitted turquoise jacket, bright-red toenails peeping from open-toed slides with three-inch heels -- and her partisans erupted in cheers.

To be completely fair, Coons is not that much older than O'Donnell (47 to her 41) and he, too, evoked rapturous responses from his fans in a standing-room-only, overflow crowd Thursday night at the Jewish Community Center. The difference is that O'Donnell is an overnight celebrity who was mobbed afterward and had, she told us, turned down numerous invitations to be on national TV so she could be at the forum. Her campaign received a huge boost from Palin and is viewed by many as a test run for a Palin 2012 presidential bid.

Christine O'DonnellAll of which is likely to mean nothing in the end. Even if O'Donnell were a perfect candidate, and she's far from it, Delaware is a Democratic state -- to the point that state auditor Tom Wagner told the JCC crowd that he is "the last Republican standing" in state government and laughingly urged them to "protect an endangered species." Like him, Castle was an exception -- a 30-year fixture in a tiny state where people are always running into their leaders at playgrounds, parties and supermarkets.

The personal nature of the politics here works for Coons. A policy wonk and former debate champ, he doesn't have O'Donnell's dash or easy warmth. But for six years he has been executive of New Castle County, which includes the population center of Wilmington. Unlike her, he has held office, he is married and has a family, and he seems to have had no trouble collecting degrees. He double-majored in chemistry and political science at Amherst, then added a Yale law degree and a master's in ethics from the Yale Divinity School. His qualifications and record prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to say last week, unadvisedly, that "he's my pet. He's my favorite candidate."

For O'Donnell, the intimacy of Delaware politics is problematic. This is her third race for the Senate and people here know her. The local newspaper has written up her $5,800 in annual income, the near foreclosure on her mortgage, her unpaid taxes, the IRS lien against her, a lawsuit over unpaid tuition that held up her undergraduate degree for 17 years (she finally got it this summer). Former aides are spilling tales of alleged shoddy financial management, strange ideas and delusions of grandeur. One said in a robo-call for Castle that O'Donnell was running to "make a buck" and living off campaign donations. Her profession, her background, how she makes ends meet -- all are unclear.

Nor is there anywhere right now to get information on O'Donnell from O'Donnell, because her website has vanished except for a funds solicitation. Like Sharron Angle's site, which also disappeared for a while after Angle won an unexpected Senate primary victory in Nevada, it is presumably being scrubbed of O'Donnell's more controversial positions.

Not that they are a secret. She told the JCC audience that she opposes embryonic stem cell research and all abortions except if a woman is going to die, in which case her family could decide which life to save ("There's probably not a single person in this room who has not been affected by abortion," she said, somewhat enigmatically).

She'll never vote to increase taxes, and she wants to raise the retirement age for collecting Social Security benefits (she said the issue crystallized for her when she saw Valerie Bertinelli on the cover of AARP magazine -- another puzzling remark, since Bertinelli is 50, eligible for AARP membership but 16 years away from being able to collect full Social Security benefits).

Oh, and don't worry about Big Brother monitoring what you do alone in bed. O'Donnell, who is on videotape denouncing masturbation, cleared that up in response to this question: "You have taken a strong stance as to people's private sexual behavior. What do you think is the role of government in regulating that?"

"It's personal," a woman in the audience called out. "I agree, it's personal," O'Donnell said. She said her 1996 comments on the issue came when she was in her 20s and excited about her "newfound" faith. "But I assure you my faith has matured," she said. "And when I go to Washington, D.C., it'll be the Constitution on which I base all of my decisions, not my personal beliefs."

Coons said Delawareans aren't interested "in statements that either of us made 20 or 30 years ago." He said he hoped he and his opponent can focus on their policy proposals and constructive ideas. O'Donnell applauded him with a grin and later said she appreciated an opponent who wanted to discuss ideas (a reference to what she called the "rather unflattering portrait" painted by Castle and state GOP Chairman Tom Ross, who took aim at her character and called her unelectable).

The subtext of the Coons performance, however, was pointed. Every time he said he wanted voters to judge the candidates on ideas, values, seriousness or experience, which was often, it was hard to miss his implied contrast. And for all the civility during this forum, his campaign issued a sharp-edged statement right afterward.

Coons, spokesman Daniel McElhatton said, has "reformed a corrupt county government" and helped create jobs for 25 years. O'Donnell "has never made a tough decision. She has no interest in working across party lines and finding common sense solutions to get people back to work. Ms. O'Donnell appears most interested in promoting herself and her radical social and economic agenda."

Some Republicans are belatedly realizing that the wise course is to get behind O'Donnell, in at least a perfunctory way. The national Senate campaign committee is giving her $42,000, the maximum it can, though it's unlikely she'll benefit from independent GOP expenditures on advertising. Ross acknowledged Thursday -- two days after the primary -- that "the winds of change are blowing hard in Delaware" and it was time for Delaware Republicans "to come together."

For all O'Donnell's star power, the odds are that Ross and Castle will be proven right about her in November. That'll be soon enough to say "I told you so."

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81 Comments

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tink12888

This is not what the Tea Party needs. Well govenment reform..Some crackpot prolly hitting the crack pipe. She cant explain where her income comes from and lives in frigggin delaware on $5,800? It costs $5,800 just to cross the friggin bridge. As far as masturbation, she dont make a bad target. Lock and load boys

October 06 2010 at 7:28 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
jack rook

I would really like to see someone enforce a masturbation ban, seriously the concept is as assinine as the opening paragraph on this article. In particular this bit right here "Let's just say it right up front and get it out of the way: New Tea Party rock star Christine O'Donnell is a Sarah Palin-Michele Bachmann Republican and Democrat Chris ***** is, well, a balding middle-aged guy in a dark suit with a lot of degrees." the author needs to explain to me, because I must be so blindingly stupid to fail to grasp it, what the relevance of Chris ***** hair, and age have to do anything? I mean other than a perhaps biased author attempting to, in a not as subtle way as she thinks it is, colour our perception. I would put my faith in a man with "lots of degrees" before I put my faith in someone that even for a second considered something as absurd as a masturbation ban. So please Jill, this is directed to you(and I bet will not make it past your editor since it calls you out) explain to me what that opening has to do with the ACTUAL ISSUES and explain to me also how it is not an attempt further us down the shallow road we have been taking since someone figured out that a light coloured suit made a candidate seem more appealing to a TV going audience. Pretty sure that fashion sense, no matter how impeccable does not translate well into good policy making.

October 05 2010 at 1:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pupcountry

Will someone please tell me how that Christine O'Donnell thinks she could outlaw masterbation....even if she wanted to.

September 18 2010 at 8:09 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pupcountry's comment
piratesmvp04

I think an even better question would be, how would you regulate that?

October 04 2010 at 8:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kenneth

The more I see that the establishment is worried about her winning the more I like it. Right now I would vote for her no matter which ticket she ran. on for two simple reasons. She does not look like the type of person that can be controlled by either party. She will rely more on commom sense judgment. She will never be controlled by Lobbyists and special interest groups. We have enough puppets in Washington now with big business, special interest groups and lobbyists pulling their strings. It is about time we had real people. The constitution states a government of the people for the people. It does not mention puppets!

September 18 2010 at 2:01 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Kenneth's comment
papason

Please tell me who you think has financed her campaign so far. If you think special interests don't have a stake in all these tea party candidates, you are very naive. The way a person looks has nothing to do with running a country.

September 20 2010 at 11:56 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
HyeAghcheg

I can appreciate your frustration with the many encumbents running for office. The question I have to ask you, however, is how would you expect her to add value as a Senator? How can you expect her to apply common sense judgement in the Senate, when she has a proven track record of NOT doing so, in her personal life? You can't miss what you don't know and you can't practice what you're unfamiliar with.

September 25 2010 at 3:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Colleen

Carol there are a lot of Americans in forclosure. Why does that make Christine O'Donnell unqualified? Do you feel only a person of wealth deserves to hold office? Or that if a 20 year old appears silly on TV she can never amount to anything in life? Carol, let me guess, you came from a two family home and Daddy paid for college. You never had a student loan to pay. You are a screaming democrat yet believe there is a class system in this country some people are better than others? Every sinner has a future and every saint has a past. Delware feels O'Donnell is qualified and to that end I am going to support this candidate.

September 18 2010 at 12:14 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Colleen's comment
Carol

Darlin', I came from a two parent home and worked my way college. It took me years to pay off my loans, but I paid them in full. My point is not so much that she went into foreclosure, but her employment history is shaky, she skipped out on her student loans and did not pay her taxes. THAT is an issue for me and should be for every voter out there. Delaware does not feel she is qualified. She has not won the race. She only won the primary. And, BTW, Sweetie... I don't scream.

September 20 2010 at 9:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Carol

She is not only clearly unqualified, but her values appear to be skewed. Forget her wacky personal believes... She's been in foreclosure??? She skipped out on student loans??? She has federal tax liens??? This woman isn't qualified to run for dog catcher.

September 17 2010 at 11:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Carol's comment
mnokno

"Tea Party" Blind Leading the Blind

September 17 2010 at 10:57 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mnokno's comment
mgdcrown

Replace blind with politician and you are on to something there.

September 19 2010 at 8:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rinconmd

I used to live in DE and I'm embarrassed that the people of DE voted for her to run in the Primary, over Castle.

September 17 2010 at 10:51 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rinconmd's comment
ellingt5

You should be embarrassed that Castle voted like a Liberal Dem and showed no grace in defeat!

September 17 2010 at 11:19 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
John B

Term limits and pension reform will fix this crooked country.

September 17 2010 at 10:08 PM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply
actionhero

Thankyou Ms. Lawrence, but masturbation is ranked 12th in the natiional polls.

September 17 2010 at 9:56 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

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