Christine O'Donnell

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Christine O'Donnell (born August 27, 1969) was the 2010 Republican Party (United States) nominee for the U.S. Senate seat from Delaware, but was defeated by Democrat Chris Coons. She was supported by the Tea Party movement and has previously been a spokesperson for Concerned Women for America.

O'Donnell was raised a Roman Catholic in New Jersey. Her early interest in theater gave way to politics and evangelical Christianity. She joined the Republican Party and spoke up for its most conservative supporters, represented the anti-abortion organization Concerned Women for America and later appeared as a commentator in various media outlets, including Fox News. She ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for one of Delaware's Senate seats in 2006, but won the official candidacy in 2008. In 2010 she once again took the nomination (with the support of the Tea Party movement), defeating the Republican favorite Mike Castle, for what would be an unsuccessful bid for the Senate.

The Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism determined that she was second only to Barack Obama in news coverage, coming from virtually no name recognition. Many of her statements were controversial and drew media attention. [1] After O'Donnell's primary victory, national Republicans said they were diverting funds from the Delaware race, which they had hoped to win, to other races where they had a better chance. Republican strategist Karl Rove said, on Fox News,

There’s just a lot of nutty things she’s been saying that just simply don’t add up. I’m for the Republican, but I’ve got to tell you, we were looking at eight to nine seats in the Senate. We’re now looking at seven to eight. In my opinion, this is not a race we’re going to be able to win.[2]

Campaign positions and issues

Frequently mentioned is the idea that she avoided specifics, or even seemed unfamiliar with the issue. In a debate with her opponent on 13 October 2010, both candidates were asked to comment on a specific recent Supreme Court decision. When asked specific recent Supreme Court rulings that she opposed, O'Donnell replied "Oh gosh, give me a specific one," and was reminded that the question called for her to supply one, "I'm sorry," and promised to put the information up later on her website. Her opponent mentioned Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.[3]

Government spending

In October 2010 on CNN,[4] moderator Wolf Blitzer asked her, according to Washington Post opinion writer Stephen Stromberg, [5] how she would cut federal spending -- with specifics beyond just saying she'd slash "waste, fraud and abuse." Stromberg wrote that she "talked about things such as "canceling what hasn't been spent of the stimulus, halting federal hiring, freezing domestic discretionary spending -- that is, proposals that, realistically, don't get anywhere close to fixing the country's long-term fiscal outlook." She then returned to stopping fraud, waste and abuse.

Church and state

During a radio debate before a Widener Law School audience, she challenged her opponent “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” Coons responded with thes Establishment Clause, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

“You’re telling me the First Amendment does?” O’Donnell interrupted to ask.

Following the next question, Coons revisited the remark — likely thinking he had caught O’Donnell in a flub — saying, “I think you’ve just heard from my opponent in her asking ‘where is the separation of church and state’ show that she has a fundamental misunderstanding.”

“That’s in the First Amendment?” O’Donnell again asked.

“Yes,” Coons responded. [6] Strictly speaking, O'Donnell is correct that the words do not appear in the Constitution itself, but in Thomas Jefferson's 1 January 1802, letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in response to that group's address congratulating him on his election as president.[7] Nevertheless, many Constitutional specialists regard Jefferson's clarification as a matter of Framers' Intent.

Social issues

She argued that social issues should be state or local, not, federal decisions. Asked about previous opposition to evolution, she said : "What I believe is irrelevant. What I will support in Washington, D.C., is the ability of the local school system to decide what is taught in their classrooms."[3]


Campaign style

There is little question that she and her opponent offered clear choices, focused on the "base" of both parties. Analysts suggested the winner would be the candidate that least offended centrists and independents.

In a debate afer she was trailing in the pools, "My opponent wants to go to Washington and rubber-stamp the spending bills" that she said are hurting the nation and Delaware. Later, O'Donnell said, a vote for Coons would cost the average Delawarean $10,000 "instantly" in tax hikes and energy reform costs. At other times, her attacks were less precise and drew scorn from Coons, such as when she said the influence of a Marxist college professor on Coons' political beliefs should "send chills up the spine of every Delaware voter...CNN If it were accurate, if it were true, I'd agree," Coons responded. "It's not accurate and it's not true."[3]


  1. The Midterms’ Media Mainstays, Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism
  2. Jeff Zeleny (15 September 2010), "G.O.P. Leaders Say Delaware Upset Hurts Senate Hopes", New York Times
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 CNN Wire Staff (16 October 2010), "O'Donnell, Coons stage feisty debate in Delaware", CNN
  4. Original CNN link dead but searching for transcript
  5. Stephen Stromberg (13 October 2010), "Christine O'Donnell is [updated]", Washington Post
  6. Andy Barr (19 October 2010), "O'Donnell questions separation of church, state", Politico
  7. Steven D. Schwinn and Ruthann Robson, ed. (October 28, 2010), "O'Donnell, Jefferson on Separation of Church and Stat", Constitutional Law Prof Blog