Republican Senate candidate fires new salvo in the next battle of Tea Party versus ‘RINO’

Kyle Peterson Contributor
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Christine O’Donnell is going on the offensive in her bid for the Delaware Senate seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden, in a race that could open up a new front in the war between Tea Partiers and those they describe as ‘RINOs,’ or Republicans in Name Only.

O’Donnell, considered an underdog for the GOP nomination, took a swing at her opponent, Republican Rep. Mike Castle, in a release sent to supporters and the media Thursday.

“Mike Castle’s voting record proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he is for special interests, against the free market, anti-Second Amendment, pro-abortion and he’s even for sanctuary cities.  It’s a preposterous record,” O’Donnell said. “Calling himself a Republican is borderline schizophrenic, confused about his own political identity.”

According to O’Donnell’s campaign, objective facts bear her claim out.

“Mike Castle is the most liberal congressman in the Republican Party,” said Yates Walker, campaign spokesman.

National Journal’s 2009 rankings placed Castle as the least conservative Republican in the House of Representatives. He voted for cap-and-trade, against the surge in Iraq, and he doesn’t favor immediately pushing for a repeal of ObamaCare.

It’s little wonder, then, that Castle has become a target for conservatives. The website RemoveRINOs.com, referenced by the O’Donnell campaign in its email, places centrist Republicans’ pictures on the faces of playing cards, similar to the decks distributed to soldiers to help them recognize high-value targets during the Iraq war. Castle, as the ace of spades, is listed first on the site.

O’Donnell’s biggest obstacle has been convincing voters that a more conservative Republican is electable in dark-blue Delaware.

“The augment in argument of Mike Castle was he was electable – he was a provable, electable commodity in Delaware,” Walker said.

Then O’Donnell got a boost last week from a Rasmussen poll that showed O’Donnell leading likely Democratic nominee Chris Coons by a 41-39 margin. The campaign has been trumpeting the poll as proof that O’Donnell, too, can be elected. Their pitch now is to ask conservative Delawareans if they want a fake Republican or a real one.

“This is a game changer,” Walker said. “Now the question is, what’s the use of Mike Castle?”

It remains to be seen if conservatives will take the poll as evidence of O’Donnell’s viability and rally to her cause.

It helps that O’Donnell’s name recognition has been boosted by two previous Senate runs. In 2006, she came in third in the GOP primary, and in 2008 she claimed approximately 35 percent of the vote in a race against Joe Biden.

But Castle has been a fixture in Delaware politics for more than four decades, as a state legislator, lieutenant governor and governor before being elected to U.S. Congress in 1992. Polling shows Castle’s lead over Coons is larger than O’Donnell’s. And Castle’s campaign had approximately $2.6 million in cash at the end of June, according to FEC data — dwarfing the fundraising efforts of his competitors.
In a year where Americans are deeply dissatisfied with incumbents, though, O’Donnell’s campaign is counting on the idea that her conservative credentials and Tea Party politics will give her an edge over Castle.

“The political winds are shifting; he knows it as well as anyone,” Walker said. “He’s got to live up to his record, and it’s not a good record for this year.”

Mike Castle’s spokesperson could not be reached for comment by press time.