Christine O'Donnell: Why she's no Sarah Palin(Read article summary)
Christine O'Donnell, who faces allegations of improper use of campaign funds, seems to be cut from the same cloth as Sarah Palin. Where they may differ is the ability to withstand adversity.
From the moment Christine Oâ€™Donnell burst onto the political stage, she has drawn comparisons with Sarah Palin. The unsuccessful 2010 Republican nominee for Senate in Delaware, like the GOPâ€™s 2008 vice presidential nominee, is a young, female, telegenic, tea party conservative, who knows how to connect with voters.
During the campaign, Ms. Oâ€™Donnell seemed to play up the physical similarities, with her Palin-esque clothes, hair styles, and glasses. In restaurants, Oâ€™Donnell even orders what Ms. Palin orders â€“ or at least thatâ€™s the joke among some conservatives.
The postelection Oâ€™Donnell, who lost by 17 points to New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D), is following another Palin-like trajectory. She didnâ€™t get a gig on Fox, but she got a book contract and sheâ€™s starting a political action committee â€“ Christine PAC (to Palinâ€™s Sarah PAC). Her goal is to support like-minded conservatives and stay in the political game.
Now, Oâ€™Donnell is fighting back against a reported federal investigation into alleged improper use of campaign funds, and is claiming that her home-state â€śpolitical establishmentâ€ť is out to get her.
â€śWe were informed that the Delaware political establishment was going to use every resource available to them to, you know â€“ including launching phony investigations, making false accusations, and tying me up with lawsuits to make sure that I can't move forward politically â€“ to try to stop this movement in its tracks,â€ť Oâ€™Donnell said Thursday on ABCâ€™s â€śGood Morning America.â€ť
Oâ€™Donnellâ€™s charge echoes one of Palinâ€™s rationales when she resigned the Alaska governorship midway through her term â€“ that she had had it with ethics probes that hindered her ability to govern.
But Oâ€™Donnell, in fact, is no Palin. The former Alaska governor had held other political posts in the state before winning its highest executive office. Oâ€™Donnell has run for office three times â€“ each time for the US Senate â€“ and never won. Her victory against Congressman Castle was indeed a stunning upset, but it took place in a low-turnout primary with a right-place, right-time anti-establishment wind at her back.
The unmarried Oâ€™Donnell also doesnâ€™t have the life experience of Palin, who is married and has five children, including one with special needs. Oâ€™Donnellâ€™s sketchy employment, educational, and financial histories may make her â€śrelatableâ€ť to some voters, especially in tough economic times, but at a certain point, sheâ€™s just plain hard to pin down. Thatâ€™s why the reported campaign finance probe may really hurt her political future â€“ and perhaps why sheâ€™s fighting back so hard.
In discussions of the potential 2012 GOP presidential field, Palinâ€™s name is always in the mix. Even if Republican voters are telling pollsters theyâ€™d prefer someone else as their nominee, the possibility of a Palin candidacy is taken seriously.
Oâ€™Donnell isnâ€™t in the same league. Maybe her best bet is to follow in the footsteps of another failed 2010 Senate candidate, Alvin Greene of South Carolina, the unemployed Army veteran who inexplicably won the Democratic primary. Mr. Greene is now running for the state legislature.
For now, though, Oâ€™Donnell has clear staying power on cable news. Controversy around her campaign finances has no bearing on the future of the republic, but itâ€™s news because the camera loves her, especially during the holidays, when the Obamas are on vacation and not much of anything else is going on.