Christine O'Donnell smiles during remarks to the Family Research… (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters )
She’s not a witch. But she has the power to make Democrats jump for joy over her endorsement of Mitt Romney.
She is, of course, Christine O’Donnell, the former Senate candidate from Delaware who failed to be elected last year in a season in which Republicans won just about every race from dogcatcher on up. O’Donnell, you might remember, cut an infamous campaign ad in which she jokingly denied dabbling in the occult. Delaware voters were not amused and sent Chris Coons to the Senate.
But O’Donnell is still somewhat of a name in tea party circles, which explains why the Romney campaign made a big deal out of her endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor last night. And O'Donnell choosing Romney over more openly conservative choices can be viewed as a mild surprise.
“Christine has been a leader in the conservative movement for many years,” Romney said in a statement. “Christine recognizes that excessive government threatens us now and threatens future generations, and I am pleased to have her on my team.”
The release makes no mention of O’Donnell’s background as a failed candidate for office many times over, her financial woes, her much publicized stumble last year over the 1st Amendment or her history as an abstinence advocate for the MTV generation. This year she released a book titled “Troublemaker,” and made headlines for walking out on a CNN interview when asked about same-sex marriage.
Her level of radioactivity is such that the Democratic National Committee took the unusual step of simply forwarding the Romney press release on O'Donnell to reporters with the comment “In case you missed it.” The thinking on its part is that the more Romney tacks rightward to shore up his flank in his steel-cage death match with Newt Gingrich, the more vulnerable he makes himself in the general election should he make it that far.
Romney’s camp, however, may have been smarting from criticism from Sarah Palin, who recently praised Gingrich for trying to reach out to tea party activists while suggesting Romney had not made the effort.
“For me, this endorsement comes down to trust. I am endorsing Governor Romney because I trust him to do the right thing. He has the strength of conviction to do the right thing regardless of opposition,” O’Donnell said in the statement announcing her support.