O’Donnell’s Prospects Weighed as She Backs Out of Interviews

Posted September 19, 2010 at 11:18am

Christine O’Donnell may have canceled her appearance on two Sunday news shows, but that didn’t stop Delaware’s newly minted Republican Senate nominee from being the topic du jour.

O’Donnell was scheduled to be a guest on both “Fox News Sunday” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” but she backed out citing scheduling conflicts and exhaustion, the hosts of both shows reported.

O’Donnell surprised the Republican establishment Tuesday when she beat centrist Rep. Mike Castle for the GOP Senate nomination, but she has been dogged by controversial statements, her previous campaigns for abstinence, and campaign aides who allege she is paranoid and unstable.

“I got triple booked,” O’Donnell said in a call to “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace said. “I had been invited to go to a church, then a picnic. I have to keep my priorities to Delaware voters.”

CBS’ Bob Schieffer said his program asked O’Donnell’s campaign whether her cancellation was related to comedian Bill Maher’s release Friday of a tape of the candidate’s appearance on his now-defunct “Politically Incorrect” show. In the clip from 1999, O’Donnell says she dabbled in witchcraft and had a picnic date on a satanic altar when she was younger.

Schieffer said her campaign spokesman replied in a statement, saying, “Campaigns about what she did as a teen are hardly a worry to her or the people of Delaware.”

O’Donnell is currently running more than 10 percentage points behind Democratic nominee Chris Coons in recent polls. Before her win, Castle was expected to easily walk away in November with the seat vacated by Vice President Joseph Biden and now held by placeholder Sen. Ted Kaufman (D).

Meanwhile, Republican officials appeared on a variety of shows questioning O’Donnell’s fitness as a candidate.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Delaware GOP Chairman Tom Ross defended himself for saying before O’Donnell’s primary win that she was unelectable even as “dog catcher.”

“We had a candidate that was very close to becoming the next United States Senator from Delaware, and essentially people on our team clipped him right as he was about to go over the goal line,” Ross said. He added later, “My job is to stand with our endorsed candidate [Castle], and I did that, and I’m proud of what I’ve done.”

Still, he said all might not be lost for O’Donnell if she “can stick to that message that essentially, ‘My opponent is a rubber stamp for the Obama agenda, and I will oppose it.'”

Karl Rove, an adviser to President George W. Bush, also defended himself against conservatives who said he had been too harsh in assessing O’Donnell. On Fox News, Rove said serious questions have been raised about O’Donnell, including allegations that she has lied about liens against her house, unpaid college tuition, and other questions about “her background, character, statements and previous actions.”

Rove said people would not hear the arguments against President Barack Obama’s agenda “as long as these questions are out there.” But he said O’Donnell made a “smart decision” by canceling her Sunday show appearances.

Sen. Jim DeMint was one of the few to defend O’Donnell, as well as his own decision to back her candidacy. The South Carolina Republican has been a champion of tea party favorites who have routed GOP establishment candidates in primaries this year.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of excitement for Christine O’Donnell,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I know she was massacred in the campaign with millions of dollars of negative ads, but she raised over a million dollars in the last two days from people all over the country. They like an underdog, they like someone who is taking on the establishment. And a third of the voters in Delaware are independent, and I think when they get the sense that this gal is taking on everybody, I think she’s going to surprise people in the general election, too.”

O’Donnell also has support from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R).