Christine O’Donnell and Rep. Mike Castle do battle in the GOP Senate primary in Delaware

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The Delaware Republican primary is boiling down to one issue: Who will be able to beat the Democrat opponent?

Christine O’Donnell and Delaware Rep. Mike Castle are both vying for the chance to face Democrat Christopher Coons in a special election for Vice President Joe Biden’s former Senate seat in November. Making this race even more consequential is the fact that the winner will be seated immediately, thereby having the ability to vote on legislation pushed during Congress’ “lame duck” session.

Castle has represented Delaware’s at-large congressional district since 1993. Though considered soft on many Republican issues, the state GOP has granted him their endorsement. Tom Ross, Delaware state Republican Chairman, told The Daily Caller that while Castle is quite moderate, he has the best chance to win, which will help the conservative cause in the long run.

“Castle is pretty moderate on some issues, but if you look at polling in Delaware you see that it is one of the most liberal to moderate states,” Ross said. “The mot important vote Castle is ever going to cast, in my estimation, is for leadership. In order for conservatives like DeMint to be heads of committees we are going to need to win some seats in the northeast to ensure that people with a more conservative outlook have a bigger voice. ”

O’Donnell has never held public office but has spent over twenty years in political advocacy and is modeling herself as the conservative candidate, running on a pro-growth, jobs agenda. She told TheDC that she would work to solve the country’s economic woes by extending the Bush tax cuts, eliminating the estate tax, and giving the American people a two year holiday on income and capitol gains taxes.

“Rather than spending and taxing our way to recovery I am focusing on cutting taxes,” O’Donnell said. “Every candidate is saying they will work to improve the economy, but what distinguishes one candidate from another is the way they would do it. Mike Castle and Chris Coons are both promoting legislation that supposedly would fix the economy, but all it does is increase taxes and increase the debt.”

O’Donnell echoes her conservative brethren in lamenting what they see as the seemingly endless amount of money Congress continues to pour into the stagnant economy. “How many more stimulus bills do we need to pass before we realize it doesn’t work. The best thing the government can do to create real recovery is to get out of the way of the small business owner and entrepreneur,” she said. “Business owners don’t create jobs just because President Obama tells them to.”

By contrast, the more moderate Castle has positioned himself as the candidate who can actually win. Indeed, Rasmussen polling helps backs up his claim. In an August 5 Rasmussen Reports survey of likely voters, Castle easily beat out opponent Chris Coons 49 percent to 37 percent. Against O’Donnell, the Democrat Coons wins handily, 46 percent to 36 percent.

O’Donnell and her supporters have pinned Castle as a Republican in Name Only (RINO) for his support of cap-and-trade, sponsorship of the Disclose Act, his vote against the surge in Iraq, his refusal to join the effort to repeal ObamaCare, his vote for the TARP bill, and his recent vote for the Democrat’s “jobs bill.” His critics have even gone so far as to speculate that should he win he will switch parties, as Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter did last year.
Despite such claims, a source close to the Castle campaign told TheDC that Castle wouldn’t dream of changing parties. “Mike Castle has been dedicated to getting Republicans in Delaware elected for years and suggestions that he would abandon the party is nonsense typical of his primary opponent,” the source said.

O’Donnell is adamant that while she has run for Senate and lost in the past, she still has good chance to win this time around. “The voters in Delaware are center-right. Our leadership is liberal but if you run a campaign on the issues they really resonate with the voters,” she said. “Mike Castle keeps consistently voting with the Democrats and the people in Delaware are tired of it.”

Ross told TheDC that despite what O’Donnell may say, Castle is a deficit hawk and has the best chance to win. “The problem with Christine’s candidacy is that she talks the talk, but doesn’t really walk the walk,” Ross said.

According to Ross, O’Donnell has a lot of “baggage” that makes her candidacy unviable. “She is just not taken seriously among even most conservatives here in the state. And I consider myself a conservative,” he said. “But it goes all the way back to Christine working for the conservative ISI [Intercollegiate Studies Institute] here in Delaware and then suing them after they dismissed her.”

“Virtually none of her contributors in this run are repeat donors,” he continued. “Last quarter she only had five contributors from the state of Delaware. We have first time candidates for state rep that do better than that….Christine would just be a lot better focusing on Christine and getting herself in order.”

O’Donnell strongly disagrees with the idea that so long as a Republican wins it doesn’t matter how liberal they are. “Just having a Republican majority has not helped the economy. It is the Republican principles of limited government and low taxation that help our economy,” she said.

While she is fighting hard on the campaign trail, establishment Republicans still have not rallied to her side.

“She has a lot of the attributes to be a good candidate, but the fact is that she just doesn’t have any credibility in Delaware,” Ross concluded.

The Republican Senate primary is scheduled for Sept. 14.