NEWARK, Del. (AP) — Delaware voters have a chance to deal a blow to the tea party movement by choosing Democrat Chris Coons in the Senate race instead of the party's favorite Christine O'Donnell, said the head of the Democratic National Committee on Tuesday.
Coons went from a decided underdog in the race when it was assumed that nine-term congressman Michael Castle would walk away with the nomination. Insted, O'Donnell became an instant national figure when she rode a tea party wave to an upset victory in the GOP primary. Polls now show Coons is the favorite for the seat formerly held by Vice President Joe Biden.
"Right here in Delaware, with the nation watching, you've got a great chance to say 'no' to tea party GOP candidates," DNC Chairman Tim Kaine told about 100 people during a voter registration rally at the University of Delaware.
Kaine's visit was part of nationwide voter organizing effort at colleges around the country, with President Barack Obama speaking to more than 100 campus watch parties in a telecast from the University of Wisconsin.
Democrats are trying to hold onto their majorities in the U.S. House and Senate during the midterm elections in a time when voters are indicating they are dissatisfied with the direction of the country.
Kaine said Republicans are driving the economy into the ground and that despite GOP opposition, Democrats still have made significant progress on programs including health care and financial reform.
"We still have work to do, and the Republican Party is simply not the party we can trust to get it done," he said. "If they win control of Congress, they've made it plain; they want to do everything they can to reverse the progress that we've made, turn back the clock on behalf of special interest friends and big donors and the right-wing elements that are frankly taking over the Republican Party."
Since her win, O'Donnell, who is making her third run for the Senate, has been answering questions about a string of unusual comments she made during her years as a conservative TV guest. They included speeches against masturbation and a claim of briefly dabbling in witchcraft in high school, which she recently attributed to teenage rebellion. Both subjects were part of a skit on Saturday Night Live.
She's also mired in controversy of allegations that she improperly spent campaign funds.
Coons, who left for a fundraiser after making brief remarks, reminded students of service programs such as Americorps and called for a similar volunteer effort to get out the vote in November.
"The consequences have never been more serious; there is so much at stake," said Coons.
Parish Braden, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, issued a statement saying Kaine was "trying desperately to motivate young voters behind his fledgling Democrat candidates."
"Unfortunately, Tim Kaine's lofty rhetoric won't change the fact that Harry Reid's 'pet' Chris Coons is pledging his support for the same reckless economic policies that lead to 9.6 percent unemployment," the statement read.
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