Bad Stuff 'Bout Christine O'Donnell

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Dave Weigel dubs it the Mike Castle Death Star: the operation to push opposition research on Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, which is now swirling faster than Hurricane Earl.

Some commonly referenced, reported facts: that her 2008 Senate campaign was thousands of dollars in debt, that she sold her house to her campaign lawyer in 2008 to avoid action from her mortgage holder, that she uses campaign money to pay half her rent because the townhome where she lives doubles as her campaign office, and that she owed over $11,000 in back-taxes to the IRS. (O'Donnell has claimed this last part was a mistake and has posted an explanation, including a .pdf letter from the IRS, to her website.)

All of this was reported in a Wilmington News Journal story in March, when O'Donnell announced her bid. Perhaps the biggest obstacle of all for O'Donnell's vested antagonists, including Castle's campaign and the Delaware GOP, is that the News Journal charges readers to view this story online. It has, however, been reproduced on an anti-O'Donnell website.

Now, the Castle campaign has set up a new attack site, RealChristine.com, devoted to hosting lots of this bad stuff.

O'Donnell's drawbacks flew under the radar before her candidacy was taken seriously. The national press corps didn't really know anything about her.

Now, her bid is taken seriously only because Tea Party Express, which endorsed her Monday and will spend $250,000 to air ads on her behalf (see the first one here), has pulled off some upsets in this election cycle that didn't make any sense at the time, either. Nobody expected Joe Miller to win in Alaska, and although Sharron Angle closed in rather quickly in Nevada, there was a time when no one thought she had a chance. Call it the Tea Party Express Uncertainty Principle: people are watching this race now out of a sense that once Tea Party Express gets involved in an election, all bets are off.

The oppo operation has succeeded in changing the press's outlook on this race, and the climate of the election for O'Donnell.

It also may have succeeded on another front: preventing O'Donnell from getting more outside help. Tea Party Express said earlier this week that it hoped some other groups would get involved, if it had some success off the bat in this race and O'Donnell looked like a potential winner. In other races this year, the Club for Growth and Sen. Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund have backed the same candidates Tea Party Express has supported.

But all this oppo seems prohibitive, and it probably indicates a reason why the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund have not issued endorsements of O'Donnell. It now seems unlikely that more outside help is on the way.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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