In a report on the Republican senate primary in Delaware on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Nancy Cordes portrayed tea party favorite Christine O'Donnell's conservative social views as being on the fringe: "[She] has crusaded for abstinence and against porn. Writing once that 'when a married person uses pornography, it compromises the spouse's purity.'"
Cordes noted O'Donnell's position on those issues following a sound bite of primary opponent Mike Castle declaring: "I think she's too extreme for Delaware." In another sound bite after Cordes's comment, editor-in-chief of The Hotline, Reid Wilson, explained: "If Christine O'Donnell wins the primary election she's going to have a very difficult time winning in what is still a very blue, very Democratic state."
In concluding the report, Cordes observed: "...until recently this seat in Delaware seemed like it was in the bag." Fill-in co-host Erica Hill replied: "Ah, but no longer."
Following the report, Hill interviewed O'Donnell, focusing on the candidate's position in the polls and financial issues being raised in the campaign. Throughout the interview, the headline on screen read: "Primary Day; Controversial Tea Party Candidate Takes On Establishment."
Here is a full transcript of Cordes's September 14 report and Hill's interview with O'Donnell:
ERICA HILL: Primary day. Voters in more than half a dozen states head to the polls today and all eyes are on tea party candidates looking for big upsets, including a key Senate race in Delaware. We'll speak with the woman at the center of the contest.
HILL: First, though, we turn to politics this morning. The tea party and voter anger. There are more primary elections today around the country and tea party candidates are hoping to upset some more established Republicans. CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes is in Washington this morning with the latest. Nancy, good morning.
CORDES: Good morning, Erica. There are primaries in seven states and D.C. today. But the one that everyone is watching is in Delaware, because who wins there could very well determine whether Republicans have a shot at taking control of the Senate. It was a $250,000 pledge from the Tea Party Express that vaulted Republican Christine O'Donnell from dark horse to contender in the Delaware Senate primary.
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: There's a tidal wave coming in Delaware and we're riding it and my opponent is drowning in it.
CORDES: Everyone thought her opponent would be a shoo-in. Mike Castle is a popular nine-term Congressman and former Delaware governor. But the newest polls show them neck and neck.
MIKE CASTLE: So I think she's too extreme for Delaware.
CORDES: O'Donnell, a former marketing consultant, has crusaded for abstinence and against porn. Writing once that 'when a married person uses pornography, it compromises the spouse's purity.'
REID WILSON [EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE HOTLINE]: If Christine O'Donnell wins the primary election she's going to have a very difficult time winning in what is still a very blue, very Democratic state.
CORDES: And that is why Republican leaders are putting all their muscle behind Castle.
CAMPAIGN AD: She didn't pay thousands in income taxes, had to be sued by a university for thousands in unpaid bills.
CORDES: O'Donnell is hoping to even the score with a late endorsement from Sarah Palin. Who's also recording robo-calls for her.
SARAH PALIN: Christine will help usher in the real change that we need to get America on the right track.
CORDES: The stakes are so high in Delaware because Republicans must win this special election for Vice President Biden's former seat if they want a real chance to reclaim the Senate. They need to win ten Senate seats to do that, and until recently this seat in Delaware seemed like it was in the bag, Erica.
HILL: Ah, but no longer. CBS's Nancy Cordes joining us from Washington this morning. Nancy, thanks. And Republican U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell joins us this morning from outside a polling station in Wilmington, Delaware. Good to have you with us this morning.
O'DONNELL: Good morning, Erica. Thank you for having me.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Primary Day; Controversial Tea Party Candidate Takes On Establishment]
HILL: As we just heard from Nancy, you have the support of Sarah Palin at this point, you have the support of the Tea Party express. But Freedom Works, which is the group backed by Dick Armey which has backed a number of tea party candidates, has not given you its support, saying that they see you as a weak candidate, they don't believe you can win in a general election. But as Nancy noted, some of those polls showing you creeping up. Why do you feel that you can not only win here but also convince moderates and even some Democrats to vote for you come November?
O'DONNELL: You know, people didn't think that we would get this far in the primary, either. And I think that that's a lazy way out to say that we can't win. We have a winning message that after the primary we're going to take into the general election. A message that resonates with independents and Democrats. Because the people who are struggling economically, it doesn't go by party lines. Our message is that we need real economic growth, based on the private sector. We need to create jobs by getting the government out of the way of the small business owner and the entrepreneur. We can't afford more of these big spending bills that my Republican and Democrat opponents support. Commonsense men and women here in Delaware know that that's not sustainable. And I'm fortunate, because my opponent has – he can't stand on his record, so he's resorted to character assassination. And it's backfired. It's really exciting that the voters are seeing right through that. They're tired of politics as usual, and they're rallying behind me, because they trust me to represent them in Washington, a much-needed real change in Washington.
HILL: There's been some focus on both your experience, you've never held an elected office, and also some questions raised about your own financial history. It took 12 years for you to get your college degree because you hadn't paid off some loans. There were some leftover campaign debt. You mentioned the importance of finances, and of the economy, and of jobs. Can voters trust you, then, someone who has had financial trouble?
O'DONNELL: Absolutely. Erica, thank you for this opportunity to clear the record. All of those accusations are addressed on my website, Christine2010.com. And when the question of financial responsibility comes into question, you have to look at how I handled those financial difficulties. I'm an average hard-working American. I'm not a multimillionaire like my opponent. Of course in this economy I'm fallen on hard times. But I worked hard, I sacrificed, I made the decision that I needed to make things right. I came through to the other side in a very strong position. I made it through the difficult times. That's what the voters are seeing. Financial responsibility is making your obligations right. My opponent has cashed a government paycheck, a taxpayer-funded government paycheck, for over four decades. So when he makes those accusations that that's irresponsible because someone has struggled, he's insulting the voters. And I think that's where the backlash has come from. And that's why so many former people who once supported my opponent are now on my side. Because it's this obnoxious sense of entitlement that this position should be handed to the next anointed king. It's sad.
HILL: I want to take a look – I want to take a look at your support before we let you go. You've had some endorsements from outside the state of Delaware. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has endorsed you and we mentioned Sarah Palin. How much of your funding, though, how much of your volunteer staff, is actually coming from within the state of Delaware? There's been some criticism that too much of it is a national, not a local level.
O'DONNELL: Well, we have an army of volunteers that have given us the strength we need to get the national attention. And my opponent, over – about 70% of his donations come from out-of-state corporate special interest PACs. So we've got a lot-
HILL: Why do you feel that national attention is so important to this race for the state of Delaware. Why do you need it?
O'DONNELL: Well for us, we're relying on the grassroots support. We are not a party apparatus. So when the – when Palin and DeMint and Sean Hannity and others have come in and gotten behind our grassroots effort, it was a vote of confidence for we, the people, and a vote against the politics of personal destruction. So what they were saying was, enough is enough. This election, the focus of this election, should be how we're going to get private sector jobs back in Delaware. How we're going to defend the security of our homeland. How we're going to take care of our veterans. When the national support came in, it was saying enough is enough. Let's talk about the real issues-
HILL: Okay, we're going to have to leave it there
O'DONNELL: And that excited our war-weary troops who have gotten us this far.
HILL: We'll have to leave it there.
O'DONNELL: Thank you very much, Erica.
HILL: But we'll be watching the results. Christine O'Donnell, thanks.