Could Christine O’Donnell Really Win?

Could Christine O’Donnell Really Win?

Could Christine O’Donnell Really Win?

Why the media—and probably more voters than we like to think—find her bewitching.


As I was flipping between the Sunday morning political shows—where the most animated talk was about Christine O’Donnell’s abruptly canceled appearances on the Sunday morning shows—and a cable station playing School of Rock, it became painfully clear why O’Donnell has way more than a snowball’s chance in hell to become the junior senator from Delaware. 

I was trying to watch David Gregory, Bob Schieffer and Chris Wallace, but Jack Black and his rockin’ 10-year-old students were irresistible. Christine O’Donnell is no Jack Black, but, like him, she and her Tea Party compatriots cannot wait to blow the minds of the establishment and drown out all the nay-saying number crunchers like Karl Rove with another stunning battle-of-the-bands upset.  

It helps, of course, that O’Donnell looks like Sarah Palin—the round face and pop-out cheeks, the shoulder-length, big-banged brown hair—even without the Tina Fey glasses. There’s always a satisfaction, in the media and in us, in discovering lookalikes. The fun process of comparing and contrasting itself makes us want to keep O’Donnell on the national stage. And many of us are deciding she’s "better" than Palin. Next to the lipsticked pit bull, Christine has the face of an angel.

"She does not have a mean bone in her body," says Bill Maher, who claims O’Donnell is a "close friend." "She’s a lot more relaxed.… More fluent with the English language," says Joe Scarborough. "She is better in front of cameras than even Sarah Palin."

She should be. She’s defended her flakesville follies on Maher’s old show, Politically Incorrect, on some twenty-two episodes. On Friday, he ran a clip in which she laughingly admitted that she had "dabbled into witchcraft," and he warned her, hostage-crisis style, "If you don’t come on this show, I’m going to show a clip every week." Who knows if those tapes hold anything more wicked than Wicca, but (again, unlike Palin) she seems able to laugh at herself. "I think she’s a goof and a good sport," notes Chris Kelly, a writer for Real Time with Bill Maher. "She’s got a smile that could light up an abortion clinic bombing." 

Besides, in the Christian-inflected Republican and Tea parties, you can get a pass for screw-ups if you claim to now be saved. Witchcraft? A teenage indiscretion that opened her eyes to the evils of Halloween. Anti-masturbation nuttery? Extremism in pursuit of virtue is no vice. Wouldn’t lie to Hitler to save a Jew? A silly hypothetical. Believes scientists have developed "mice with fully functioning human brains"? Why not?! The elites have developed a Muslim commie with fully functioning presidential powers. Wake up, sheeple!

Perhaps a more worrisome infraction among her crowd is that O’Donnell is not a Mama Grizzly—she’s 41 years old and has no kids. But, eh. None of that matters any more than facts—or logic or reason or consistency—have ever mattered among the faith-based political base. As one woman who called into a radio station years ago said, "President Bush would have to murder my mother before I’d turn against him."

What matters is the passion, the televisual sparkle, or, as Chris Matthews has been hammering home recently, the "juice"—"the desire to get to that voting booth and vote with all you got against what is going on now," he said. "That comes at the Democrats in November, that juice."

So far, though, the Democrats have been delighted that O’Donnell, and not the popular, moderate Mike Castle, will face Democratic senate nominee Chris Coons in November. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe the witch business or the watchdog group CREW’s charges that O’Donnell is a "criminal" who has been "embezzling" campaign money will eventually repulse the far right in Delaware.

But for now the 11-point spread favoring Coons does not seem insurmountable, and the money—$1 million reportedly the day after the primary—is flowing O’Donnell’s way, in part to punish Rove for saying that she lacked "rectitude and truthfulness and sincerity and character" (this from a man who allegedly engineered the imprisonment of the Democratic former Alabama governor Don Siegelman on trumped-up charges and who still insists the Iraq war was justified). And anyway, most of the races pitting Tea Party types against Democrats are close or tinged red: Rand Paul v. Jack Conway in Kentucky; Sharron Angle v. Harry Reid in Nevada; Joe Miller v. Scott McAdams in Alaska. And who saw that Scott Brown would take Ted Kennedy’s seat this long before election day?

But even if O’Donnell doesn’t win this battle of the bands, she’s already won the battle of the BS. She’s shown that no matter what stupid things you’ve done, if you have a certain twinkle in your eye while you spout rightwing shibboleths, the media will find you bewitching.

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