Asking hasn’t worked. Twitching her nose hasn’t worked. So now Tea Party favorite and Delaware’ Republican candidate for Senate Christine O’Donnell is using a threat to try and pry big bucks out of the Republican party establishment and big bankroll groups: she’s warning them that she has Fox News and talk show radio host Sean Hannity in her “back pocket” (literal words) and if they don’t cough up the dough she’ll go on his show and attack them.
The story comes via ex-Newsweeker Howard Fineman in his new role as a Huffington Post analyst/reporter:
Christine O’Donnell may not be a witch, but she knows how to use scare tactics to raise money, top Republican strategists and officials here tell me.
They say the Delaware Republican is loudly complaining about how they won’t support her — and they are not — as a way to generate angry, send-them-a-message donations from her Tea Party base.
Specifically, according to two top GOP insiders, she said at a strategy meeting with DC types last week: “I’ve got Sean Hannity in my back pocket, and I can go on his show and raise money by attacking you guys.”
And that was precisely what she was doing on the radio today. On Hannity’s popular afternoon drive-time show, the Tea Party-inspired Senate contender acidly criticized the party, specifically the National Republican Senatorial Committee, for not funneling any serious cash (beyond a pro forma $43,000) into her race against Democrat Chris Coons.
(The O’Donnell campaign did not respond to a request for comment.)
Hannity, who earlier in the show warned GOP officials not to criticize Tea Party leader Sen. Jim DeMint, expressed sympathy with O’Donnell’s fiscal plight and gave a glowing review of her performance in last night’s televised debate with Coons. Hannity criticized party insiders for not backing her with cash or endorsements.
According to Fineman, not only are GOP bigwigs turning up their non-twitching noses at her, but so is Karl Rove’s American Crossroads. Rove was clear after O’Donnell’s primary win that he felt her victory wasn’t good for the party and probably meant not gaining control of the Senate.
Her comments about Hannity, however, shove into the open the truth about his evolving role as a free political ad for those with whom he agrees.
Unlike Rush Limbaugh, who seems to view himself the elder statesman of a new conservatism that wants moderates to take a hike, or Glenn Beck who seems to see himself as leader of a movement, Sean Hannity has evolved into not just a partisan talk show host but a partisan propaganda p.r. man. His role isn’t to interview, really; it’s to help a (Republican conservative) candidate who he likes get his/her message out.
Candidates with whom he agrees get a microphone to give their website, ask for funds, or attack anyone they choose. Meanwhile, the trend is for Republican candidates who want to avoid the not-all-friendly questions of the mainstream to go on Hannity’s show to get an interview seemingly scripted by their own campaign manager. And, in a way, it is..
O’Donnell is 19 points behind (so far). It seems virtually impossible for her to overtake Coons. At a time when Republican money baggers are dumping wads of bucks on key races that the feel they can win, O’Donnell has emerged as less of a serious political figure than an emerging media and cultural punchline, a quirky figure who seems more destined to wind up with her own Fox News show or her own radio show.
Or as a regular on Saturday Night Live.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.