Latest challenge facing Christine O'Donnell: witchcraft TV clip

For Delaware 'tea party' Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, witchcraft – and a 1999 talk show admission that she dabbled in it in the past – could prove a political liability.

Jessica Kourkounis/AP
Delaware 'tea party' candidate Christine O'Donnell answers reporter questions about witchcraft Sunday in Lincoln, Del.

Christine O’Donnell does not now practice witchcraft. We’ll say that right off. If she was an actual witch, we would not be having this discussion. The Ministry of Magic would have arrived during the night and wiped any memory of an O’Donnell-witchcraft connection out of our poor Muggle heads.

But she may face a serious problem related to her comments about witchcraft. And that could explain why Republican strategist Karl Rove, among others, remains dubious of her chances to win Joe Biden’s old Delaware Senate seat in the fall.

Let’s start at the beginning, for those who’ve arrived late and are standing in the back. More than a decade ago Ms. O’Donnell, appearing on comedian Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” show, made comments to the effect that she dabbled in witchcraft when she was a teenager. (Watch video.)

“I never joined a coven,” she said.

O’Donnell canceled appearances on several Sunday news shows after clips of her old witchcraft talk surfaced. Since then she has made light of the whole matter.

“How many of you did not hang out with questionable folks in high school?” she laughed at a Republican picnic in Delaware on Sunday.

“There’s been no witchcraft since. If there was, Karl Rove would be a supporter now,” she joked.

(Hmm. How would a spell like that go? “Supportus Totalificus!”)

And really, she did say this on a show that was not exactly “The News Hour.” You go on a comedy show, you try to say something funny. Or outrageous. Mission accomplished.

Rep. Mike Pence (R) of Indiana, the third-ranking Republican in the House leadership, said Monday that O’Donnell has an obligation to explain these public comments, but that the fact they are surfacing now just shows the political “silly season” is upon us.

Pence said the fitness of O’Donnell to serve in the Senate will be up to the voters of Delaware, and that he sees an upwelling of support for candidates such as she that have promised to “put our fiscal house in order.”

But for O’Donnell the longer-term challenge here may be that it is likely she will face more witchcraft-life moments in upcoming weeks. At a time when she should be trying to build as quickly as possible on the momentum generated by her stunning primary victory, she could be bogged down by a series of media mini-flaps about her own past and past comments.

She has talked publicly over the years about many sensitive and controversial subjects, such as abortion and sexual morality. She has implied that her family has been investigated by the IRS due to political pressure. Snippets of her words, shorn of any context, are likely to appear again and again in the media as the election approaches.

And GOP guru Rove said Sunday that will be a continuing problem.

“There are serious questions that have been raised about Ms. O’Donnell’s background, character, statements and previous actions,” said Rove on “Fox News Sunday."

One way to approach these questions would be to ignore them and plan on voter dissatisfaction with Obama administration policies to push O’Donnell to victory, said Rove.

“Or you can take the perspective that I do, which is people are not going to hear these arguments about President Obama and his policies and what the Democrats are doing in Washington as long as these questions are out there,” said Rove.

IN PICTURES: Tea Parties

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