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'Tea party' on a roll: Can Christine O'Donnell win in Delaware?

After toppling moderate Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, the 'tea party' it setting its sights on Delaware. Tea party favorite Christine O'Donnell is challenging moderate US Rep. Mike Castle in this month's GOP US Senate primary.

By Staff Writer / September 3, 2010

Christine O'Donnell addresses the crowd during a meeting of the '9/12 Delaware Patriots' at the Bowers Beach Fire Hall in Bowers, Del., Wednesday. O'Donnell will face Republican US Rep. Mike Castle in a primary election in her bid for the Senate seat formerly held by now Vice President Joe Biden.

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Following its recent upset win in Alaska’s US Senate Republican primary, the "tea party" movement is focusing on Delaware. There, the GOP is scrambling to head off tea party favorite Christine O'Donnell in her challenge to US Rep. Mike Castle.

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Given the dogfight that’s ensued, it’s reminiscent of humorist Finley Peter Dunne’s best-known aphorism: “Politics ain’t beanbag.”

Of Ms. O’Donnell, state GOP party chair Tom Ross says: “She's not a viable candidate for any office in the state of Delaware.”

“She could not be elected dog catcher,” Mr. Ross told the Associated Press.

Well, maybe. O’Donnell does carry some political baggage – questions about personal finances and when, exactly, she got her degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The Castle campaign has put up a website called “The Real Christine O’Donnell.” It has vowed not to eschew attack ads the way Sen. Lisa Murkowski did in her losing reelection GOP primary bid against tea party favorite Joe Miller in Alaska. And it has called on neighboring New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – a rising GOP star – for a testimony to Castle’s conservative credentials.

If this were a normal political year, Congressman Castle – a moderate Republican who’s held statewide office for 25 years and easily won reelection – could be expected to be a shoo-in for the general election, where the Republican candidate will face Democratic nominee Christopher Coons, executive of New Castle County.

There is no incumbent running to fill the seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden; former Senate staffer Ted Kaufman is a placeholder who promised not to run for a full term.

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