Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell and her Democratic opponent Chris Coons met tonight for their first candidate forum. And of course, O’Donnell tried to clear the air and dispel the negative scrutiny of comments from her religious right activism in the 1990s — asking the people to look past her wild 20s of non-sex and anti-masturbation zealotry.
“These questions come from statements I made over 15 years ago,” O’Donnell said, the local Fox affiliate reports. “I was in my 20s, and very excited and passionate about my newfound faith. But I assure you, my faith has matured.”
(Fact check: Many of these statements are less than 15 years old — ranging from her appearance on MTV 14 years ago to promote the anti-masturbation cause, to speaking out against the promotion of condom usage just four years ago. And of course, let’s not forget her speaking out three years ago in opposition to stem cell research, citing the purported fact that scientists have already created mice with human brains.)
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Christine O’Donnell: Anti-Masturbation Crusader. Witchcraft Dabbler. Republican Senate Nominee.]Coons also said that voters weren’t going to look at this stuff: “I don’t think they’re particularly interested in statements that either of us made 20 or 30 years ago. And I don’t think they’re particularly interested in social issues, either.”
Coons’s remark could be a reference to an article he wrote for his college newspaper in 1985, “Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist,” which right-wingers have been howling about. In fact, as native Delawarean Dave Weigel has debunked the story, the title was a joking reference to the teasing from Coons’s friends as he moved away from his original Republicanism and towards liberal positions — after a trip to Kenya!
In addition, the Associated Press reports, O’Donnell acknowledged the bad publicity she’s faced: “It’s no secret that there’s been a rather unflattering portrait of me painted these days.”
She also thanked Coons for wanting to stick to the issues. “I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have an opponent who wants to talk about the issues, so I thank you for that gentlemanly approach.”
The TPM Poll Average gives Coons a lead of 52.2%-38.8%.
Late Update: Coons spokesman Daniel McElhatton issued a statement after the debate:
For over 25 years Chris Coons has worked in the public and private sectors and helped create jobs – he reformed a corrupt county government – and he has put working families ahead of partisan bickering.
In stark contrast, Ms. O’Donnell in her 20 year career has never created a single job and has never made a tough decision. She has no interest in working across party lines and finding common sense solutions to get people back to work. Ms. O’Donnell appears most interested in promoting herself and her radical social and economic agenda. She wants to repeal the role of the federal government in education and raise the social security retirement age.
She opposes a woman’s right to choose, even in the case of rape. She is a part of a national movement that believes that any attempt by Democrats or moderate Republicans to reach a compromise is bad. Chris turned around New Castle County by bringing people together to get results. Chris believes that we will get the nation back on track by setting party aside and focusing on results.
That is the Delaware mainstream view and that is the difference between Chris Coons and Ms. O’Donnell.