Revelations haunt Tea Party candidate

By Anne Penketh

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She is a Sarah Palin-lookalike who stunned the political establishment by snatching the Republican Party's Senate nomination in Delaware on behalf of the anti-government Tea Party.

But Christine O'Donnell's startling admission from a decade ago that she "dabbled into witchcraft" has come back to haunt her since her upset victory in a Republican primary contest over shoo-in Mike Castle, raising inevitable questions about her suitability for public office.

Revelations about her personal life have been picked up by none other than the Republican uber-strategist known as "Bush's brain", Karl Rove. He pointed out that the reason for her failure to break ahead in the polls against her Democratic rival in the November elections, Chris Coon, was because of these issues.

So who is Christine O'Donnell? She is a political lobbyist and ultra-conservative pundit who founded a moral advocacy group, the Saviour's Alliance for Lifting the Truth.

The last time she ran for office, against Delaware's veteran Senator Joe Biden (now US Vice-President) two years ago, she picked up just a handful of votes. Now the 41-year-old is a household name. But she now faces an official complaint that she allegedly used campaign funds to pay her rent and personal expenses, and has had to explain troubling omissions in her CV.

Then came the videos. The latest is a TV clip from 1999 in which she says she never joined a witches' coven, but "one of my first dates with a witch was on a Satanic altar".

Before that, she had been shown declaring that masturbation is a sin.

After the previously unknown video about witchcraft surfaced, O'Donnell abruptly decided to cancel scheduled appearances on the Sunday TV talk shows, having discovered that she had more urgent business in Delaware.

Biden himself has warned Democrats not to take her victory lightly.

"Gird your loins for anything: it's not likely to be a straightforward debate," he warned party workers in the state last week.

O'Donnell has accused the former senator of ordering her telephone to be tapped in one of her earlier two bids to unseat him.

In a radio interview last week, she said Biden had conducted a smear campaign against her, hinting that a tax investigation which discovered that she owed US$12,000 in unpaid taxes was politically motivated.

The big question, of course, is whether the Tea Party will harm the mainstream Republicans or the Democrats on November 3 at a time when the Democrats are fearful of losing control of the House of Representatives and possibly even the Senate. The Tea Party extremists are anti-government, anti-tax but above all anti-Obama. One influential Republican who has aligned himself with Tea Party positions, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, spoke for the Tea Party over the weekend when he charged that Democratic policies were "left of Europe".

In the cradle of free enterprise this is a serious insult. But he also warned that the Republican Party would be "dead" unless it embraced conservative values. He is an O'Donnell fan.

For now, the Tea Party agenda in terms of a political platform is not clear.

The party is still a grass-roots movement rather than an organised party with recognised leaders, although the sparky former Governor of Alaska, Palin, has taken on the mantle of the party pasionaria with her message of "restoring" America.

She was keynote speaker at a "non political" rally in Washington staged by TV personality Glenn Beck which attracted tens of thousands of people this month.

Most of the 43 candidates whom she has endorsed in the primaries season - including O'Donnell - have been successful.

This has further fuelled speculation about Palin's ability to secure the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 even though the polls consistently show that she is not considered a credible candidate by voters, or by the Republican Party establishment.

- NZ Herald

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