POLITICS

Delaware Senate Debate: Christine O'Donnell Refuses To Say Whether Evolution Is A 'Myth,' Calls Opponent 'Marxist' (VIDEO)

10/13/2010 11:10 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Delaware Senate candidates Chris Coons and Christine O'Donnell faced off in their first debate on Wednesday night, a feisty exchange on issues ranging from evolution to Afghanistan to gays serving in the military to whether China is planning to take over the United States.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: Right off the bat, moderators Wolf Blitzer of CNN and Nancy Karibjanian of Delaware First Media tried to spark controversy, asking Democrat Coons to respond to some of the controversies surrounding his opponent. Coons resisted taking the bait, saying that he believed it was more important to focus on policies, rather than "personal financial difficulties or background issues." O'Donnell then jumped in and joked, "You're just jealous you weren't on 'Saturday Night Live.'" "I'm dying to see who's going to play me," Coons responded.

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EVOLUTION, MARXISM: Blitzer asked O'Donnell whether she still stands by her 1998 comments that evolution is a "myth." "That should be decided on the local community," said O'Donnell, who then tried to change the subject. Blitzer repeatedly pressed her for her beliefs, to which she replied, "What I believe is irrelevant, because what I will support in Washington, D.C. is the ability for the local school system to decide what is taught in their classrooms." She then again tried to change the subject -- this time successfully -- bringing up the fact that in college, Coons wrote an article titled, "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist." "So when you look at his position on things like raising taxes, which is one of the tenets of Marxism, not supporting eliminating the death tax, which is a tenet of Marxism -- I would argue that there are more people who support my Catholic faith than his Marxist beliefs," charged O'Donnell. Coons told people to go read the article, which he said was a joke. "I am not now, nor have I ever been, anything but a clean-shaven capitalist!" said Coons. "I would stand to disagree," responded O'Donnell.

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NATIONAL SECURITY: The candidates engaged in a lengthy discussion on national security, which has taken a backseat to economic issues during much of the campaign season. The exchange came on the heels of O'Donnell telling Fox News that if elected, she would like a spot on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. O'Donnell criticized the president's withdrawal timeline in Afghanistan, calling it "random." She said that it will "simply embolden the terrorists to come after us even more, saying, 'I've chased away the superpower.'" She added that when the U.S. withdraws "from Iraq," there must be "benchmarks in place." Coons responded by first correcting her that she said "Iraq" instead of "Afghanistan." "I question whether your standard, whether your principles, give us any hope of winding up this war on any reasonable timeline," he continued, saying there needed to be a "reasonable end in sight" and calling O'Donnell's benchmarks "gauzy." "When we were fighting the Soviets over there in Afghanistan in the '80s and '90s, we did not finish the job," O'Donnell responded. "So now we have a responsibility to finish the job." (Note: The Soviets actually left Afghanistan in 1989.) She called Coons's objections that the war is costing the U.S. too much money "politically correct statements."

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ABORTION: As The Huffington Post has reported, O'Donnell is one of a handful of GOP candidates this election cycle who oppose abortion access, even in cases where a woman has been raped or is a victim of incest. "I respect the human dignity on all levels," said O'Donnell in tonight's debate. She said that her critics are using the "scare tactic" of rape and incest, even though they're "one percent of all abortions performed in America." Coons said he personally is against abortion, but believes women should be able to make up their own minds. "I think abortion should be safe, legal, and rare," he added.

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CHINA TAKING OVER THE U.S.: One of O'Donnell's most puzzling statements was her claim in 2006, when she was running in the Senate primary (which she ultimately lost), that China has a "carefully thought out and strategic plan to take over America." "That doesn't work," she said, accusing her opponent of appeasement. "There's much I want to say. I wish I wasn't privy to some of the classified information that I am privy to." Tonight, O'Donnell said that she was referencing some "security briefs" she received when she was working with a humanitarian group that was going to China. She said that because they "own so much of our debt," China could indeed "take us over monetarily before they could militarily." She also said she believed she was "misquoted" at the time.

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CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM: Coons called the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United "unfortunate and ill-decided." "Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and in politics, it is best for us to disclose as fully and as broadly as possible, who is making contributions," he added. O'Donnell said many disclosure efforts "infringe on the First Amendment rights of private decisions." She claimed that because of FEC reports, her supporters have been getting "harassing phone calls, not just from reporters, but from all kinds of people who oppose my candidacy. They're using intimidation tactics because we are forced to disclose who is contributing to my campaign."

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