Leaders of the influential FreedomWorks group -- one the largest and most powerful tea party forces in the country -- publicly distanced themselves from the latest tea party political star, Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, at a breakfast with reporters this morning.
"We stay out of that race because we're not convinced O'Donnell can win," FreedomWorks president and CEO Matt Kibbe said at the Christian Science Monitor-sponsored event.
FreedomWorks chair Dick Armey shared the ambivalence toward O'Donnell, who's sparked a kind of GOP breakdown with her fast-rising candidacy against party stalwart Mike Castle, who most view as a shoo-in for Vice President Biden's old Senate seat should he win the nomination. Presented with polling data showing likely Democratic nominee Chris Coons beating O'Donnell in a general election, Armey was asked "if it's better for Republicans to lose with a tea party-backed candidate than to win with a mainstream Republican candidate."
"I'm going to give a quick answer," Armey said. "No."
Just because they didn't endorse O'Donnell didn't mean the FreedomWorks leaders had high praise for Castle. The moderate Republican has drawn fire from many conservatives for what they see as his too-liberal stances and Kibbe wasn't about to stand with the man many tea partiers see as an enemy to their cause.
"I think the question for Mike Castle is, if he can't win his primary, does he deserve to win the general?" Kibbe said.
A new PPP poll shows O'Donnell leading Castle 47-44 going into tomorrow's primary.