Christine O'Donnell, the Delaware sensation, asked more than 2,000 social conservatives on Friday to do something a few politicians ask audiences of any kind to do.
The surprise winner of Tuesday's U.S. Republican Senate primary asked her audience at the Family Research Council's annual Values Voters Summit to recall how it felt when President Obama took office in January 2009.
That set the stage for her to recount what Obama critics regard as disastrous initiatives that the Democratic president has introduced, including his stimulus-spending package that threw billions of dollars at what she called "a Keynesian fantasy."
Most politicians and their advisers would have dismissed out of hand the idea using in a political speech the name of a long-dead British economist whose "pump-priming" theory of growth inspired generations of American liberals to regard government spending as a good, not an evil.
Far from going over their heads, the reference to John Maynard Keynes drew hoots and applause from the evangelical Christians who made up most of the audience in the Regency Ballroom at the Omni Shoreham hotel.
They cheered approval when she recalled that after the Obama victory in 2008, the so-called political professionals told "the conservative movement to curl up a fetal position for the next eight years." She said conservatives did the opposite and so are on the verge of being back in the driver's seat.
She showed a flair for the memorable expression, attributing her to her success in Delaware the "grass roots' love affair with liberty." Later she said the traditional values voters and the tea-party movement "are not trying to take back the country - we are the country."
Ms. O'Donnell joined a long list of GOP stars, including a slew of potential 2012 GOP presidential-nomination hopefuls, at the summit.
Vilified by leading establishment Republicans in Delaware and Washington, Ms. O'Donnell benefited in her state's primary contest from the backing of "tea party" activists and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to fashion the upset over longtime Rep. Michael N. Castle. After the bitter primary battle, Mr. Castle's campaign has said he will not endorse her in the general election.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee and its chairman, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, at first greeted the primary result with barely disguised disappointment. But Mr. Cornyn quickly reversed course, promising to give the O'Donnell campaign the maximum legal donation of $42,000 in the general election race against the Democratic nominee, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons.
Two high-profile Republicans on nearly everyone's list as possible presidential hopefuls will be conspicuous by their absence from the two-day summit at a Washington hotel that ends on Saturday.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels will not be addressing the thousands of Christian evangelicals and conservative Catholics and Jews at the summit, organized by the Family Research Council.
Mr. Daniels and Mr. Barbour, who is also chairman of the Republican Governors Association, earlier had tangled with FRC President Tony Perkins over whether social conservatives should mute their concerns this fall in favor of economic, tax and pocketbook issues, with polls showing Republicans poised to make big gains in the November midterm elections.
Citing schedule conflicts, Mr. Barbour and Mr. Daniels declined Mr. Perkins' invitations to speak.
Leading GOP conservatives scheduled to address the summit include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina; Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma; Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia; former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas; former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts; Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana; Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota; and Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly.
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