The National Republican Senatorial Committee on Wednesday enthusiastically endorsed Christine O'Donnell's bid for Senate, one day after the "tea party" favorite defeated party establishment candidate Rep. Mike Castle in the GOP primary in Delaware.
The NRSC, the fundraising arm of Senate Republicans, has had a terse relationship with the "outsider" Ms. O'Donnell in recent months after working hard to elect Mr. Castle.
But after Ms. O'Donnell's surprise 6-percentage-point victory over Mr. Castle at Tuesday's primary, the committee quickly switched gears and said it fully supports the once "outsider" candidate.
"Let there be no mistake: The National Republican Senatorial Committee — and I personally as the committee's chairman — strongly stand by all of our Republican nominees, including Christine O'Donnell in Delaware," Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said in a statement Wednesday.
The chairman said he "reached out" to Ms. O'Donnell Wednesday morning to congratulate her and to offer her the committee's support — a gesture that included a $42,000 campaign contribution, the maximum allowable donation.
"We remain committed to holding Democrat nominee New Castle County Executive Chris Coons accountable this November, as we inform voters about his record of driving his county to the brink of bankruptcy and supporting his party's reckless spending policies in Washington," Mr. Cornyn said.
Mr. Cornyn's ringing endorsement was in contrast to the NRSC's lukewarm congratulations Tuesday night, moments after she was declared the winner.
"We congratulate Christine O'Donnell for her nomination this evening after a hard-fought primary campaign in Delaware," said NRSC Executive Director Rob Jesmer.
Ms. O'Donnell and party regulars had clashed during the primary campaign.
O'Donnell supporters had suggested the moderate Mr. Castle, 71, is so frail that he might die before finishing his Senate term, that he might switch parties and even floated rumors about his sexual orientation.
Mr. Castle and the state GOP responded with ads criticizing Ms. O'Donnell, 41, for lying about her education and record, leaving a trail of unpaid bills that included unsettled campaign debts, tax liens and a default on her mortgage, and using campaign finances for personal expenses.
Mr. Castle hasn't said whether he will endorse his former opponent in her November general election battle against Mr. Coons. Polls show the Democrat holds a comfortable lead over Ms. O'Donnell, but suggested he would have lost to Mr. Castle by double digits.
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Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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