O'Donnell, Coons show their differences in nationally televised debate

Republican candidate Christine O'Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons traded shots and personal attacks in a lively 90-minute debate in Newark, Del. The two candidates are vying for Joe Biden's seat in the U.S. Senate.
By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 14, 2010; 11:29 AM

Tiny Delaware's U.S. Senate race kept its perch in the national spotlight Wednesday night with a lively candidates' debate between Republican Christine O'Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons broadcast live on CNN.

From the campus of the University of Delaware in Newark, the two candidates sparred over federal spending, health reform and whether Coons is a Marxist - a label O'Donnell has repeatedly ascribed to him.

But much of the 90-minute conversation focused on O'Donnell, who comes to the racve with a well-documented history of controversial remarks about evolution, witchcraft and even masturbation.

(Opinion: Milbank on the debate)

Moderators Wolf Blitzer of CNN and Nancy Karibjanian, a local news anchor, repeatedly pressed O'Donnell on some of those topics, and the Republican stumbled a few times - most notably when Blitzer asked her if she still believes, as she once said in a TV interview, that "evolution is a myth."

"What I believe is irrelevant," O'Donnell finally said after deflecting the question twice. "What I will support in Washington, D.C., is the ability for the local school system to decide what is taught in their classrooms and what I was talking about on that show was a classroom that was not allowed to teach creationism as an equal theory as evolution. That is against their constitutional rights and that is an overreaching arm of the government."

O'Donnell also struggled to answer Karibjanian's request that she name a recent Supreme Court decision she disagrees with.

"Oh, gosh," O'Donnell said. "Give me a specific one, I'm sorry."

"Actually, I can't," Karibjanian replied, "because I need you to tell me which ones you object to."

"I'm very sorry," O'Donnell said. "Right off the top of my head, I know that there are a lot, but I'll put it up on my Web site, I promise you."

The Delaware Senate race has attracted national attention ever since tea party-backed O'Donnell's stunning GOP primary victory in August over moderate Republican Mike Castle.

The attention continued into the fall, thanks in part to a rich library of O'Donnell video clips - she was a frequent guest in the 1990s on Bill Maher's TV program "Politically Incorrect."

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