Fresh off her stunning victory in Delaware, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell will be in Washington Friday, riding a tidal wave of campaign cash and sudden big buzz about her sexual values.
O'Donnell will attend the conservative Family Research Council's "Values Voters Summit" where she'll speak on a panel with former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and American Values president Gary Bauer. The group opposes pre-marital sex, homosexuality and abortion.
O'Donnell's outspokenness on conservative social values, particularly her support for abstinence and opposition to the use of condoms and masturbation, has set her apart from many prominent Tea Party candidates, who've primarily focused on economic issues.
O'Donnell told TV talk show host Phil Donahue in 2002 that "condoms will not protect you from AIDS." And in a 2006 appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor" she said efforts to promote condom use are "anti-human."
She's also received new attention for comments she made in 1996 on MTV's "Sex in the '90s" in which she likened masturbation and pornography to adultery.
At a debate in Delaware Thursday night, O'Donnell sought to reassure voters that her views are in the mainstream. "I was in my twenties and very excited and passionate about my newfound faith," she said of the 1996 comments. "But I assure you my faith has matured, and when I get to Washington, D.C., it will be the Constitution on which I base all of my decisions."
But the national spotlight, however unflattering, has given O'Donnell an impressive boost in support from conservatives around the country, leading to an incredible influx of campaign cash in less than 48 hours after defeating moderate Republican Mike Castle.
O'Donnell has raised close to $1 million in campaign funds online and won a financial pledge from the National Republican Senatorial Committee of $42,000, the maximum allowed. Aides say the cash keeps coming in.
O'Donnell appeared on all major TV network morning show programs on Wednesday, and has used attacks by her opponents, including Republican strategist Karl Rove, to win sympathy in many conservative circles.
"We didn't raise anything like that overnight," said Randy Desoto, spokesman for Alaska GOP senate nominee Joe Miller, who delivered a similar blow to the party establishment three weeks earlier by defeating incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski. "We haven't even raised a million dollars."
O'Donnell Rakes in Campaign Cash
During her primary campaign, O'Donnell collected just over $376,000, according to Federal Election Commission data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics. She had just $20,374 left in the bank as of Tuesday.
But now the sudden flood of funds into her campaign coffers puts her on course to compete at least even-handedly with Democrat Chris Coons, who's raised over $1.6 million.
The news appeared to have Democrats scrambling Thursday with the White House dispatching Vice President Joe Biden to Delaware to campaign for Coons, who's been the early favorite in the race.
Coons and O'Donnell are vying for the senate seat Biden held for 36 years. If O'Donnell were to win the seat it would be a huge victory for Republicans who are trying to regain a majority in the Senate.
Meanwhile, President Obama also hit the campaign trail Thursday night in another very blue state, Connecticut, to help fundraise for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
Tightening polls there and the extensive campaign war chest of Republican candidate and former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon have made the race appear increasingly a toss up.
Obama's fundraising in Connecticut was expected to raise $400,000 for the Blumenthal campaign and state party. But as Democrats consider their "political firewall" strategy, there is no denying that trend lines in Connecticut and Delaware are looking more challenging for Democrats.