Delaware Republican senate candidate and Tea Party movement darling Christine O’Donnell had a terse debate with her Democratic opponent Chris Coons Tuesday, October 19th at Widener College of Law in Wilmington.
Local radio station WDEL broadcast the debate and provided a pool camera feed. Proceedings appeared to get out-of-hand several times, with clapping and noise from the audience, prompting moderators to ask the audience for order on several occasions.
The GOP candidate got handed an interesting verdict, with most mainstream press outlets trumpeting a headline like the one in the Washington Post Tuesday afternoon, “Separation of church and state questioned by Christine O’Donnell.”
Other outlets also raised that aspect of the debate as a central part of the day’s story. In short, Mr. Coons asserted that the first amendment to the US Constitution, along with decades of decided case law, added up to an “enshrined” concept of separation of church and state in America. Ms. O’Donnell challenged that assertion, which resulted in laughter from the audience and another call to order from the moderators.
O’Donnell campaign manager Matt Moran later issued a statement that his candidate, Ms. O’Donnell, simply meant to point out that the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear verbatim in the Constitution.
Polls show O’Donnell with big hurdles
A range of polls show O’Donnell trailing by as little as 11 points, or as much as 21 points. Both double-digit spreads don’t bode well for any campaign with a matter of two weeks left for a ballot. Adding to the problems, Ms. O’Donnell’s campaign continues to feud with the national Republican party, asking for more support and more funding. Across the aisle, reports say the Democratic Senatorial Campaign has cancelled buys in the market for their candidate through Election Day, a move some have interpreted as confidence in a positive outcome for Mr. Coons and a desire to reallocate funds to less certain races elsewhere.
The cold-war conducted by the O’Donnell campaign, and to a lesser extent the Coons campaign, i.e. conducting one-way communication by news release or facebook and twitter postings while denying interviews of questions from reporters seemed to fade as well. The O’Donnell campaign started reaching out more actively to members of the media and making the candidate more available to reporters, perhaps in desperation and as a reversal of the original strategy or tactics.
Can it be done?
In short, it would be a major upset if O’Donnell won November 2nd, but she also managed to pull out a surprise win when faced with long-time Delaware pol Mike Castle in the Republican primary September 14th. However, with poll numbers averaging near 20 percent in favor of her opponent, odds would seem to be amazingly long against an O’Donnell victory and other factors including responses and personal conduct at candidate forums would see to echo that assessment of the campaign itself – that it has started reaching a desperate stage as election 2010 gets closer.