Mike Castle declared flatly that if Christine O'Donnell wins the primary, Republicans lose "automatically" this fall -- and there goes Republicans' chances at taking back the Senate.
"Bottom line is, if she’s nominated, Republicans lose the election automatically," Castle said in an interview with NBC's Kelly O'Donnell today from Wilmington, Del. "It’s that simple."
Castle is hoping to fend off O'Donnell, a TV commentator and former marketing consultant, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars Tea Party Express has poured in to try and upend Castle. Castle was seen as a recruiting coup by national Republicans, but his moderate voting record has angered the purists and after Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski's loss to political novice Joe Miller, Republicans were on their toes. Everyone turned next to Delaware.
Castle also criticized the funding for O'Donnell's campaign as "a complete out-of-state operation," outlined the Tea Party's motivations as about purity over pragmatism, and criticized O'Donnell as "very extreme" and having "deficiencies" worse than any opponent he has face before. Castle said it would be "difficult" to support her if she wins, but didn't rule it out.
Castle also took a shot at Sarah Palin, "wondering if she’s ever been in Delaware," he said. He also said he wasn't surprised Sen. Jim DeMint endorsed O'Donnell, because he's made it his "crusade to find the most conservative people he can support. ... I’m just surprised it didn’t happen sooner."
Here's the transcript:
MIKE CASTLE: We understand this is a contested, tight election and we’re gonna work hard to make sure we turn out our voters which is key in primary elections. You’ve got to get the people to the polling places. Its a lot different than a general election and we’ve worked hard on that.
KELLY O'DONNELL: Why so close…?
CASTLE: First of all we don’t know it is that close. Secondly, obviously they’ve attacked this has been a complete out-of-state operation. A Political Action Committee from California, a couple people from Washington, DC, and that’s it. It s not been a local campaign. It’s not had local donations, but they’ve spent a lot of money, and they have been on the attack, hard its benefitted most of you (media) by the way in terms of their advertising.
K. O'DONNELL: What’s changed in last 10 days?
CASTLE: We’ve expanded our advertising to make certain of where we are. I don’t know what happened except for the extensive advertising they have run. They have spent several hundred thousand dollars trying to, not only take me out, but anybody that dares to vote with the other party at any time, out. That’s what they’re after.
K. O'DONNELL: You usually run positive campaigns. Have you been pushed outside your comfort zone?
CASTLE: I have normally run ads that are not that much in the contrast mode or even the negative mode. We have this time. And yes, it’s not what I would prefer to do in a campaign but on the other hand, I’ve never had an opponent who has the deficiencies of this particular opponent. I think that needed to be pointed out. In terms of no job, paying for her own living expenses from her campaign and a whole variety of other things that were evident on the record that needed, in my judgment, to make clear to the public.
K. O'DONNELL: Sarah Palin doing radio ad/her impact on race
CASTLE: I don’t want to belittle Sarah Palin. I never met her. I don’t know her, but I’ve been endorsed by Pete DuPont, Gov. Chris Christie, etc.
K. O'DONNELL: Is this race about you or something else?
CASTLE: It’s about me and what I’ve done, but it’s also about a very extreme candidate, running a very extreme race. With the idea that if you don’t vote ideologically with everything she and her followers believe in, then you need to go. So it’s about a little more than just me it’s sort of a combination factor.
K. O'DONNELL: You’ve tried to disqualify her. Why does she have support?
CASTLE: This is a primary election, where a limited number of people turn out, so the results get skewed for that reason. The second issue, I’ve yet to see a poll that shows her having any chance to win the general election.
Bottom line is if she’s nominated, Republicans lose the election automatically. It’s that simple.
Her appeal is to a hard core base of the Republican Party, but when people go in to vote, they’ve got to make the decision: Do we want to give up the general election by casting this vote? And that’s gonna be hopefully in the minds of a lot of voters which is one of the things we’re trying to appeal to.
K. O'DONNELL: Could you support her if she wins?
CASTLE: Ahhh, I will answer that question -- that’s very hypothetical -- and I’ll answer it at some point in the future, if it were to happen, and it might not even be tomorrow. I would look at that, as you know, this has not been a very pleasant experience for anybody and the concept of supporting one another in this circumstance is gonna be difficult for anyone.
K. O'DONNELL: There were reports of a death threat against state GOP party chair and infighting.
CASTLE: There has been some unpleasantness between state party officials and the O’Donnell campaign and manifested itself in whatever this threat is perhaps in other….
K. O'DONNELL: Are you a moderate?
CASTLE: More or less. I think on social issues, I am clearly a moderate. It’s perhaps a little bit off on some of the financial issues. I’ve been a strong supporter of reducing spending and balancing budgets. I helped write and introduce the line item veto, balanced budget amendment. I have voted against most of the big spending increases…including the stimulus bill and others.
K. O'DONNELL: For GOP to retake the Senate, how important is this race?
CASTLE: I think each of these races is important to either gain control of the Senate or make inroads in the Senate, they can’t give up races likes this. There is an expectation that I would be able to win…
K. O'DONNELL: Have you ever felt this kind of pressure?
CASTLE: I would say this primary is different than any. First of all, it’s only the second primary I’ve ever had. I’ve never seen so much outside influence in any election in Delaware. This election is totally outside of Delaware, the Christine O’Donnell election on the other side. There is a lot of misinformation about what I’ve done and my record, and there’s a lot of misrepresentation I think in terms of her background issues which are slight at best. Fired from a job, not holding a job for several years. Basically running a very ideologically driven campaign, so it’s been a different forum, approach to an election that we’ve seen heretofor. I basically have not seen her out publicly campaigning, so there’s that as well. It’s essentially the Tea Party Express and others who are coming in with money and running their ads and that’s what it’s all about, so its different than the others. There’s some pressure that comes from that, sure.
K. O'DONNELL: At first, you ignored her. Do you regret that? Do you think you reacted in time?
CASTLE: I don’t regret anything at this point. We made the decision NOT to engage n the basis she was misrepresenting so much with personal slander and a variety of things I found distasteful. And, in don’t, I don’t regret that. I hope that our strategy is effective as far as the election is concerned, and I’m pretty confident it is. That’s something the voters will tell us tomorrow.
K. O'DONNELL: Is there a moment where you say, how did you get here?
CASTLE: Oh yeah, you think about why did it toughen up? Why did, is there a squeeze there, sure you think about those things, but I had a primary back in '92. I had I think a much more qualified opponent, couple opponents, than I do now. That was tight too, but it didn’t have the money influence that this one has. I’ve been sitting here thinking about Sarah Palin and wondering if she’s ever been in Delaware. I don’t know if she has or not or even through Delaware for all that matters. You know, ah there are all these various influences that you don’t expect and you hope people will pay attention to how outside all of it is.
K. O'DONNELL: Senator DeMint endorsed your opponent, surprised?
CASTLE: Doesn’t surprise me. That’s where Jim DeMint is coming from and remember every other Republican senator endorsed me. Jim DeMint has made it his crusade to find the most conservative people he can support and is supporting [them]. I’ m not remotely surprised that he endorsed her. I’m just surprised it didn’t happen sooner.