[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/09/20/art.pence.file.gi.jpg caption ="In an interview on CNN's American Morning, Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence played down controversies surrounding Tea Party-backed candidate Christine O'Donnell."]
(CNN) - Indiana Rep. Mike Pence – the winner of a socially conservative presidential straw poll over the weekend – is playing down the controversies surrounding Tea Party-backed candidate Christine O'Donnell, saying it's the surprise Senate nominee's message that's most important.
"I don't think Delaware's about Christine O'Donnell," Pence told CNN's John Roberts on American Morning. "I know there'll be this nitpicking and attempts to take things out of context. Certainly she has some explaining to do about that to her voters in Delaware.
"But at the end of the day, what's bringing people out and creating a momentum for what could be real change in America is that the American people are tired of the borrowing, the spending, the bailouts, and the takeovers, and they're looking for men and women that are willing to stand up and be counted and take on the establishment," Pence added.
O'Donnell has been forced to contend with a string of past financial issues and controversial statements – dealing most recently with newly unveiled comments from 1999 that she dabble in witchcraft.
Pence, a longtime favorite with social and fiscal conservatives alike, is widely considered to be a potential 2012 presidential candidate – especially after the popular five-term congressman signaled to some observers that he had high ambitions when he decided earlier this year to forgo a run for Senate.
Speaking on American Morning, Pence did not give any hints toward his own future in the wake of his straw poll win at the Values Voter Summit over the weekend.
"We got the text message that we prevailed, we were honored by it and by the confidence expressed by people there, and we were humbled," he said. "But our focus remains. And I think the people's remains on the voters on November 2. We'll let the future take care of itself."