Christine O'Donnell caught out in Supreme Court gaffe
Republican Christine O'Donnell was unable to name a single recent Supreme Court decision she disagreed with during a televised debate with her Democratic rival a moment similar to a 2008 gaffe by her mentor Sarah Palin.
Miss O'Donnell, 41, who is running for the senate in Delaware, invited the question when she said she opposed activist judges, citing the recent court decision ordering an immediate halt to military discharges of gays who revealed their sexuality.
But when the moderators asked her to name a recent Supreme Court decision with which she disagreed, the Tea Party favourite was unable to name a single one. Her opponent, Chris Coons, a senior official in the state, immediately answered that he disagreed with the court's Citizens United earlier this year which loosened controls on campaign financing.
The fact that the debate was televised live on CNN showed how the populist conservative movement has upstaged the midterm elections.
Miss O'Donnell was a surprise winner of the Republican primary, but has struggled to cope with bizarre comments she has made in the past, such as admitting she dabbled with witchcraft.
She attempted to hit back at her Democratic opponent by calling him a Marxist.
"There are more people who support my Catholic faith than his Marxist belief," Miss O'Donnell jabbed at Mr Coons, who as a student said he admired Marxism. He said it had been a joke.
He said he had never "been anything but a clean-shaven capitalist."
The exchange set the tone for a testy debate that was seen as a chance for Miss O'Donnell to prove she is not a political lightweight with somewhat bizarre personal baggage - and for Mr Coons to persuade angry voters that he understands their difficulties.
Miss O'Donnell went for Mr Coons' jugular, trying to portray him as one of the big-spending, debt-loving Democrats that the Tea Party movement says control Washington.
"A vote for my opponent will cost the average Delaware family $10,000," she claimed.
"Miss O'Donnell, we're going to try to have a conversation this evening instead of a diatribe," Mr Coons shot back, calling the statistics she used "untrue" and sometimes "flat out lies."