Mike Castle won't endorse Christine O'Donnell for Senate, citing 'smears'

Christine O'Donnell, a "tea party"-backed insurgent candidate, stunned the GOP establishment by beating nine-term Rep. Mike Castle for the Delaware Senate nomination.
By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 17, 2010; 12:41 AM

Still grappling with his shocking primary defeat, Rep. Michael N. Castle of Delaware said Thursday that he will not endorse Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell because he could not tolerate some of the "personal smears" he faced during the campaign.

Castle has spent the past 36 hours fielding phone calls and pats on the back from well-wishing colleagues and other politicians, including President Obama, Vice President Biden, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and dozens of others.

He said he is coming to grips with the reasons for his defeat - a conservative rebellion in the southern portion of the state that was given extra ammunition by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin's endorsement of O'Donnell. But he said there probably is not enough time in the next six weeks for him to get over some of the attacks against him.

"There are a lot of personal feelings in all this," Castle said in an interview off the House floor, citing "some of the personal smears" in the bitterly fought campaign. "At this point, I have no intention of endorsing."

He ruled out supporting the Democratic nominee, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, suggesting that he will remain neutral in the Senate race.

Last Friday, four days before the primary, O'Donnell called Castle "unmanly" for filing an election law complaint against her, telling a radio show host that "this is not a bake-off, get your man-pants on."

Both campaigns traded a series of personal charges in the final week of the contest, including Castle supporters who highlighted O'Donnell's messy personal finances and declared that she could not win a general election for dogcatcher.

O'Donnell, highlighting those attacks in her acceptance speech Tuesday night, has said that women face higher standards in politics. "This is about changing the system in Delaware so that more everyday Americans can step up to the plate without worrying about character assassinations," she said.

She has since indicated that she would take Castle's endorsement, but the two have not spoken. Castle said that his campaign had two phone numbers for her - one a cellphone, the other a home phone - and that both were out of service Tuesday and Wednesday. He said that on Thursday morning, he called the general campaign phone number and left a message saying he was trying to reach O'Donnell.

O'Donnell's campaign has become a financial juggernaut since gaining national attention with the victory. Her Web site indicated midday Thursday that it has taken in more than $1 million in contributions since Tuesday night.

Castle said that Palin provided "attention, publicity" to O'Donnell and may have given the final push to make it a clear win for her.

Sen. Jim DeMint's endorsement of O'Donnell had no impact on the vote, Castle said. The South Carolina Republican, who heads the Senate Conservatives Fund, is an unknown figure in Delaware who merely wanted to latch on to O'Donnell in case she won so he could say he played a role in her victory, Castle said.

"My fate was sealed without either one of them, in retrospect," he said of Palin and DeMint's endorsements, suggesting that voters were too angry for his moderate views. "They were very energetic, they were very committed, and they didn't want to hear any other point of view."

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