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Christine O'Donnell: Five reasons Democrats may need to worry

Democrats need not swoon for joy that Christine O'Donnell beat Mike Castle in the GOP Senate primary in Delaware. Overconfidence could be the foe of her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons.

By Staff writer / September 17, 2010

Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, left, answers a question during a candidate forum, Sept. 16, in Wilmington, Del.

Rob Carr/AP

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Christine O’Donnell beat Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware’s Republican Senate primary this week, and Democrats in Washington swooned with joy. They figured that Mr. Castle, a moderate in a moderate state, would have been tough for Democratic candidate Chris Coons to beat. But Ms. O’Donnell? A pushover. She’s a sharp-edged "tea party" favorite running in a soft-edged political culture. She’ll have to answer too many questions about past statements and alleged financial improprieties. Look at the polls! She’s so far behind Mr. Coons she couldn’t find him on a GPS.

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But overconfidence in politics, as in many of life’s activities, can be fatal. Coons won’t be able to coast into an office in the Senate Russell Office Building. As the old consultant adage goes, “You have to put out the yard signs if you want to make a victory speech.”

Or something like that.

IN PICTURES: Tea Parties

The point is, O’Donnell has pulled off one upset, and she might do it again. There are reasons for Democrats to be worried about what might happen in Delaware this fall. Here are five of them:

She's already beaten one Democrat. That’s what many of her supporters believe, anyway. They equate Representative Castle, one of the last of Capitol Hill’s dwindling band of moderate Republicans, with President Obama, in the sense that they believe Castle would vote for many administration priorities, such as an energy bill that includes cap-and-trade carbon emission provisions.

O’Donnell’s victory showed that Delaware’s GOP electorate has become more conservative. It’s no longer so dependent on wealthy, moderate voters who live in suburbs around Wilmington, a lush, rolling land studded with descendents of the DuPonts.

She's Palinesque. It is true that in the general election campaign O’Donnell will face some very tough questions, such as why she appears to have paid for living expenses with campaign funds in the past, and why it took her more than a decade to pay tuition arrears to her alma mater so she could graduate.

But O’Donnell has begun to demonstrate the ability Sarah Palin has to redirect criticism back on the “lamestream” media, in a kind of ju jitsu move that puts the candidate on the attack. She looks like Sarah Palin, a bit, and has something of Palin’s flair with set-piece speeches.

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