Republican Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware will not endorse Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party-backed candidate who beat him in the GOP primary, CBS News has confirmed.
A Castle aide blasted O'Donnell, Politico reports, calling her a "con artist who won by lying about Castle's positions and her own life."
O'Donnell pulled off a stunning upset last night, defeating the well-liked, nine-term congressman for the GOP nomination with the help of the California-based Tea Party Express and endorsements from Sarah Palin and others. The Delaware primary was one of several Republican primaries this year in which a Tea Party candidate defeated an establishment candidate. And this particular primary, perhaps the most surprising, appears to have caught the Republican Party flat-footed.
Skeptical of O'Donnell's viability as a general election candidate, especially in a blue-leaning state like Delaware, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) put all of its support behind Castle. A bruising negative campaign ensued, with both sides lobbing harsh attacks at one another. Castle's refusal to endorse O'Donnell may not come as a surprise after some of the tactics O'Donnell's supporters employed, such as questioning Castle's sexuality.
But now that the dust has settled and O'Donnell has emerged as the victor, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) is getting behind O'Donnell.
"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," Cornyn said in a statement.
Cornyn said her offered O'Donnell his personal congratulations and support, while the NRSC is cutting O'Donnell a check for $42,000 -- the maximum allowable donation the NRSC says it has provided to all of its nominees.
"In the weeks ahead, we will decide where to best allocate additional financial resources among the large number of competitive races at stake this November," he said.Other Republicans are also falling in line. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said today, "Now is the time for Republicans to rally behind their nominee, Christine O'Donnell. She ran an impressive campaign. I believe it is important we support her so we can win back the U.S. Senate this fall."
Last night, however, the NRSC gave only a terse statement of congratulations O'Donnell while reports circulated that the committee would not bother financially backing her. Democrats, meanwhile, were pointing out that Cornyn earlier said that O'Donnell's electability is a "serious issue."
Indeed, as, "The Republicans' math for taking back the Senate, in terms of seats they could win and must win, probably got harder (but didn't disappear) with the loss of Mike Castle in Delaware's GOP primary yesterday."
A new poll from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, which conducts automated polls, shows that Democratic candidate Chris Coons has a 50 percent to 34 percent lead over O'Donnell. By contrast, Castle would have led Coons by a 45 percent to 35 percent margin.
Furthermore, after the bitter Republican primary, Democrats are left with an arsenal of negative attacks to use against O'Donnell, neatly packaged by the Republican Party itself. Delaware GOP party chairman Tom Ross, for instance, said O'Donnell is so unelectable, she "could not be elected dog catcher."
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.