October 13th, 2010
09:54 AM ET
4 years ago

All eyes on showdown between O'Donnell and Coons

Newark, Delaware (CNN) – "I am not a witch."

Those are usually not the first words spoken by a political candidate in their first general election campaign commercial. But this year's battle to fill the Senate seat in Delaware held for nearly four decades by Vice President Joe Biden is anything but usual, which is why Wednesday's night debate between Republican Christine O'Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons, the first showdown between the two candidates, should be 'must see TV' for anyone with even a remote interest in politics.

O'Donnell scored a major upset last month when she defeated Rep. Mike Castle to win Delaware's GOP Senate nomination. Thanks to support from the Tea Party Express, a major endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as well as the strong anti-establishment and anti-incumbent feelings among voters this year, O'Donnell topped Castle, a moderate Republican who's served nine terms in the House as the state's sole congressman, as well as eight years as governor prior to heading to Congress.


Since her primary victory, the constant unearthing of controversial and colorful comments O'Donnell made around a decade ago on cable television when she was a spokesperson for conservative causes, have kept her in the spotlight. The "I am not a witch" declaration in her first campaign ad is a response to comments she made years ago on the program "Politically Incorrect" that she "dabbled in witchcraft." Bill Maher, the host of that program, is now highlighting those old clips in his weekly HBO program "Real Time."

O'Donnell says she's "matured" since her now well-known appearances. But she acknowledged in an interview with CNN that the resurfaced clips have forced her to reinvent herself in the final weeks of the campaign.

"I haven't been embarrassed. And I'm not saying that I'm proud," O'Donnell told CNN's Jim Acosta last week. "I've matured in my faith. I've matured in my policies. Today you have a forty something woman running for office. Not a 20 year old. So that's a big difference."

The debate, which will be held at the University of Delaware in Newark, will be co-moderated by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, anchor of the Situation Room, and by longtime Delaware news anchor Nancy Karibjanian of Delaware First Media.

"Since Christine O'Donnell's surprise victory in the Delaware Republican primary, the Delaware senate race has become one of the most-watched races in the country. And Wednesday's Delaware debate has become perhaps the most anticipated debate of this election season," says CNN Political Director Sam Feist.

This is O'Donnell's third bid for the Senate, following unsuccessful attempts in 2006 and 2008. Coons, the executive of New Castle County, the state's most populous county, faced no serious opposition in the Democratic primary.

While recent polls of likely voters in Delaware indicate Coons holds a 16 to 19 point advantage, O'Donnell enjoys a lead when it comes to campaign cash, which is one reason both President Barack Obama and Biden are coming to Delaware on Friday to help Coons fundraise.

The winner in November will fill out the remaining four years of Biden's final term in the Senate. Biden stepped down from his seat after his election in November 2008 as vice president. Former Biden aide Ted Kaufman was named as an interim replacement, and is not seeking a full term. After much speculation that he would run for his father's old seat, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden announced in late January that he would instead run for re-election as Delaware attorney general. Coon's announced days later and faced no serious opposition for the Democratic Party's nomination.

–CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Jim Acosta, and Bonnie Kapp contributed to this report


Filed under: 2010 • Chris Coons • Christine O'Donnell
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Cool

    O'Donnell is the face of the tea party and she's unelectable, just like Palin. What does this tell us about the tea party? #fail

    October 13, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  2. DJ in TX

    No one (at least I don't) actually believe she's a witch. She really had reason for the "I'm not a witdh" ad. Just let it die down like all things that come up in the media. But the "China's trying to take over the U.S." remark was just a few years ago. Plus she's been running for office for some time now. I would NOT classify her an outsider. GOP, you had this on in the bag if you had went with Castle. Now you may not win by nominating O'Donnell.

    October 13, 2010 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  3. barry

    Dems win this one. O'Donnell is a little to out there. Coons would have been pretty easy to beat by most anyone else. O'Donnell is good entertainment and I like the strategy of putting the Liberals running as Republicans out. Castle, Murkowski, and Crist should just be the start. Conservatives don't like these people anymore than Liberals like the Blue Dogs.

    October 13, 2010 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  4. Clwyd

    If voters can find anything of value other than financial ignorance and total lack of knowledge of the issues they should vote for this Moran O'Donnell. It is a sad comment on how ignorant our voting public is and how Un-American.

    October 13, 2010 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  5. ST

    I have listened to O'Donnell few interviews. She has a flow of mind and a nice voice to listen to, 100 times far comparing to Sarah Palin. Unfortunately her past behaviour rubs off all these!

    October 13, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  6. Michael in Houston

    Mr Coons.....do us all a favor and dont shake her hand, clearly communicate that you consider her a bafoon of the highest order and tell her she should be grateful you are even bothering to appear in a debate with her. This right wing machine of her/theirs wants a war with democrats...give it to them.
    Also, just for theater and to drive the point home...when you come out on stage.....sprinkle a circle of blue dust around your podium to protect you from her witchcraft.

    October 13, 2010 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  7. Josh in Sacramento

    She could state in this debate that she wants universal health care for all Americans and the idiot Tea Partiers would be all over these comments explaining how that fits in with their TP ideals of more freedom, constitutional government blah blah BS, simply because she also says she is a social conservative.

    October 13, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  8. LacrosseMom(real one)

    Looking forward to the debate. Yesterday on MSNBC a poll showed that had the Republicans elected Mike Castle in the primary he would be leading Coons! I am willing to bet good money that on November 3rd, the Republicans will be regretting getting mixed up with the Koch-Tea-Party!

    October 13, 2010 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  9. John

    Christine O'Donnell is till UNQUALIFIED to be in the U.S.SENATE. SHE a crook she lie and she never had a job. And nobody know how much school she really has.

    October 13, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  10. Almog

    Does anyone know when the debate takes place?

    October 13, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  11. PalmReader

    There has been a recklessness within the corporate owned media this past two years which astounds me. Three quarters of what has been reported, from Bank bailouts to Tea Party astroturfing has been nothing but regurgitated Republican talking points. As sickening as it is to watch one broadcaster after another pump lies and innuendo into American News programming, it is even more disgusting to see these same *professional* broadcasters squirm their way out of reporting the truth, and fault those who are willing to bring them to task. Are the Angles, the O'Donnells, the Millers, the Rand Pauls, the Palins, the McMahons what America really needs? Apparently, the media thinks so. Keep repeating the Republican game plan, CNN. What else can be expected from a media that fawned on GWB to the point of carelessness? I for one don't want a repeat of his administration; the wars, the recession, the loss of jobs. Yet, with the media constantly giving credence to all that is GOP/TeaParty nonsense, we might well be heading in the same backward direction once again, ready to repeat the disasters of GWB all over again.

    October 13, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. JOEL

    What's the big deal. She can't say she is even qualified for the senate. she will spout off the usual right wing talking points.
    It is impossible for her to win no matter how bad Coons does. Only 35% of people in Delaware even think she is qualified to be in the senate.

    October 13, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  13. T'SAH from Virginia

    "...Today you have a forty something woman running for office. Not a 20 year old. So that's a big difference."

    There are many YOUNG 20 year olds with a lot of SENSE!! There are also a lot of '40-something' year olds with NO SENSE!!! This statement – along with the ENTIRE paragraph (so I am not taking it out of context) is ridiculous!!!

    I am glad to see the President and Vice President setting forth to raise money LEGALLY and it's a shame all of the money "BOUGHT' for the other side will go to waste!!!

    DEmocrats in DE – keeping UNITING the BASE and make sure you VOTE on November 2, 2010!! (Shoutout to Chunkie and Fam' – remember to VOTE).

    This is T'SAH from Virginia and I approve this message!!!

    October 13, 2010 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  14. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Given that she shows that she can't be fully honest and has had troubles with paying the debts she has, I don't know if there is a real reason to vote for her. She claims to have matured over the years, but it isn't clear as to how much she has done over the course of time.

    October 13, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  15. stormerF

    Coons the Marxist and O'Donnell the witch. I'd rather have a Witch looking after my Tax Money than a Marxist ,at least she would not be trying to give it all away so we could be a third world country.

    October 13, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  16. katiec

    This should be an interesting debate.
    O'Donnell is just another of unqualified, irresponsible candidates the tea party sponsors, and, the American voters
    will let them know we will join them in the sham they are trying to make our political system.

    October 13, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  17. NameKevin

    This woman is a joke I can't believe people are taking her serious. The GOP is running on empty, O'Donnell and Palin talk about common sense solution and yet none of them give specifics. She's a joke like Palin. If the people of Delaware elect here they deserve everything that's coming to them.

    October 13, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  18. Gary Davis

    if the people in that state actually vote this nut job into office then they are on their own . it just blows my mind to think in the 21ST century we actually make fun of stravation and the 2% control over the masses, and greed and liars run a muck in the republican party Tea Party , and we elected a man that actually gives a crap about out future , while a lott of people cant wait or wont help fix this ZBUsh Cheney Rove debacle

    October 13, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  19. BillE

    This is going to be good.

    October 13, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  20. 8 Years of "Trickle Down" economics has only left a dribbling wet spot on working Americans's shoes!

    Yo' CNN can we have a starting time for this comedy skit "O'Donnell the witch twitches her nose to make Coons disappear from the debate"?

    October 13, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  21. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    There's too many unanswered question about O'Donnell's lies and makes you wonder does she know the truth from fiction. She may need some type of therapy rather than a "Senate" seat.

    October 13, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  22. pkb

    No, all eyes are not on Christine O'Donnell. A 90 minute debate??? Who could possibly be interested in 90 minutes outside of DE and even in DE, 90 minutes is ridiculous. CNN has become another FOX News with its right leaning shenangans and news. Does anyone wonder why CNN no longer has prominent Democrats on its shows? It's because Democrats no longer have an interest in CNN as it is too far right. Does anyone wonder why CNN has "has beens" from the Bush admin as experts, e.g. Frances Townsend on security. Townsend has no access to homeland security information anymore. She was incompetent during the Bush admin. She is shrill and overly made up as are most Republican women commentators.

    October 13, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  23. LouAz

    Questions for Delaware Senate Candidates:
    1. What is difference between a GoldmanSachs derivative and a Leibniz derivative ?
    2. What does SALT II stand for ?
    3. Who was Dred Scott ?
    4. What number is pertinant to the Exclusive Economic Zone of Maryland ?
    5. Is France a NATO Country ?
    6. How have you been employed for the last 6 years ?
    7. Who does your Federal Income Taxes ?
    8. Is the Alamo a National Monument ?
    9. What is the historical significance of Angel Island ?
    10. What is the Bill of Rights ?

    October 13, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. informed voter

    "While recent polls of likely voters in Delaware indicate Coons holds a 16 to 19 point advantage, O'Donnell enjoys a lead when it comes to campaign cash." The corporate money being flushed into our political process has got to be curtailed. America can not allow corporations and foreign entities to buy our government! Hopefully enough sane and educated Americans will come out and vote for the party trying courageously, against all odds, to move our country forward, not backward.

    October 13, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  25. ron

    This woman wants to serve in the house,but she don't do interviews, what's up with the tea party.

    October 13, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
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