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Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell endorses Mitt Romney

DES MOINES -- Tea Party favorite and unsuccessful Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell endorsed Mitt Romney for president yesterday, a rather surprising coup that the Romney camp hopes will bolster the former Massachusetts governor’s credibility with the Tea Party going into the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

Explaining her pick, O’Donnell said, according to a Romney press release, “For me, this endorsement comes down to trust. I am endorsing Governor Romney because I trust him to do the right thing.

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“He has the strength of conviction to do the right thing regardless of opposition. America needs a president who is not a Washington Insider. America needs a president who hasn’t been playing the game for the last three decades. America needs a president who can turn our economy around, put Americans back to work, and will lead with stability, integrity and the values that we hold dear.” In an interview with CNN, she indicated that Romney’s changes in positions on issues did not bother her.

“That’s one of the things that I like about him — because he’s been consistent since he changed his mind,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell made headlines last year when she declared in a commercial that she was not a witch during her campaign for the Senate, to set the record straight after having said years ago that she’d dabbled in witchcraft in high school.

O’Donnell was the Republican nominee for Senate in 2010, beating established Congressman Mike Castle in a GOP primary.

The Romney campaign did not mention that she ultimately lost in the general election by a wide margin to Democrat Chris Coons. It also did not mention that she has unsuccessfully campaigned for office two other times.

O’Donnell said in an interview with the Globe last week that she had contributed financially to Romney’s campaign, as well as Rick Santorum’s, Herman Cain’s, and Newt Gingrich’s, but had not yet decided whom to endorse.

She said she met with Iowa Tea Party groups on Dec. 3 to get a sense of whom they supported and to explain to her supporters how she would go about choosing, even if they disagree. But some Iowa Tea Party activists saw her visit as an attempt to get the movement to coalesce around Romney, and many groups boycotted the meeting, said Jeff Luecke, co-founder of the Dubuque Tea Party.

“It was Christine O’Donnell trying to co-op the Tea Partiers in Iowa and having a closed door meeting so we could get behind Mitt Romney,” whom many in the movement view as too moderate, said Luecke, a Ron Paul supporter, last week.

O’Donnell said that is a mischaracterization of the purpose of her Iowa visit.

“What I was doing in Iowa got blown out of context,” she said. “I went to meet with a handful of core supporters, not to try to get anyone an endorsement. I wanted people to be part of my decision-making process.”

Romney praised O’Donnell in a written statement yesterday.

“Christine has been a leader in the conservative movement for many years,” he said. “Christine recognizes that excessive government threatens us now and threatens future generations, and I am pleased to have her on my team.”

Tracy Jan can be reached at tjan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeTracyJan.
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