AP Interview: After near invisibility following primary win, O’Donnell vows to control message

By Randall Chase, AP
Friday, October 1, 2010

O’Donnell vows to control her political message

WILMINGTON, Del. — After nearly disappearing from public view following her upset victory in Delaware’s GOP primary, Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell re-emerged Friday vowing to control her political message and saying she is not concerned with how the national media portrays her.

In an interview with The Associated Press after opening her Wilmington headquarters, O’Donnell denied she had been ducking the media or had gone into hiding.

Instead, she said the campaign took some time to reorganize and take care of necessities as fundamental as telephones.

“We asked for time to regroup and reassess because people were telling us their phone calls weren’t being returned, and that’s not my heart,” she said. “I want everybody to feel like they’re a priority, so now our office is up and running and phones are being put in.”

Since her primary win, media reports have questioned whether O’Donnell misspent campaign contributions and misled people about her educational record. She also has been the target of late-night comedy show barbs about things she said years ago as a frequent guest on TV talk shows, including that she dabbled in witchcraft as a teenager and believes that evolution is a myth.

O’Donnell said she has stopped paying attention to what the national media was reporting about her, and she declined to say whether she believes she has been treated fairly by the media.

“It is what it is,” she said. “I’m not concerned about that. We’ve got a great media team in place and we’re going to control our own destiny and make sure that our message gets out there the way we want it to.”

O’Donnell greeted a crowd of about 100 supporters who turned out Friday for the invitation-only dedication of her Wilmington campaign headquarters.

O’Donnell also granted interviews to local reporters, who had seen and heard little from her in the past two weeks. She had said shortly after the primary that she would not to speak to members of the national media but instead would focus on Delaware voters.

O’Donnell said she has been out in public. She presided over a coin toss at a community football game over the weekend and shook hands at local restaurants and a shopping mall. She also said she has been making the rounds of local talk shows and meeting with editors of weekly community newspapers. She said she would be more visible in days to come.

“You should definitely expect to see a lot more,” she said.

O’Donnell, a conservative activist, rode a tide of tea party support and advertising dollars to upset longtime congressman Michael Castle in the GOP primary.

Matt Schlapp, a GOP strategist and former political director at the White House under President George W. Bush, said he doubts O’Donnell is executing some “master strategy” to stay behind the curtain.

Instead, he said, it probably reflects “that this is a grass roots campaign that won a surprise victory, and probably did very little strategic planning on what they would do if they won.”

Since O’Donnell’s primary win, e-mails and telephone messages from the media often have met with no response.

Schlapp said a sudden emergence on the national stage commonly creates communications problems for upstart candidates. Usually, they have months to hire new staffers, set up campaign offices and get organized. But he said Delaware’s late primary put O’Donnell at a disadvantage.

“This is a candidate who literally has hours and days to make those decisions,” he said.

Delaware GOP Chairman Tom Ross said it’s not surprising that O’Donnell’s campaign has had difficulty moving quickly from the primary campaign to the general election contest against Democrat Chris Coons, the New Castle County executive.

While trying to rapidly ramp up the number of staffers and find new office space, O’Donnell’s campaign has been bombarded with questions from the media about her background.

This week, questions were raised about whether she had falsely suggested on two online business networking sites, LinkedIn and ZoomInfo, that she had attended Oxford University in England, when in fact she had simply attended a summer program there under the auspices of the Phoenix Institute.

“I know I never created a LinkedIn profile for myself,” O’Donnell said. “I don’t even know what Zoom is.”

“I’ve never intentionally misrepresented my educational records, and I don’t know what the latest allegations are,” she added.


Associated Press Writer Ben Evans reported from Washington, D.C.

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