(AP) - It's a rare bright spot on the campaign trail for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden: a visit to Delaware to rally support for keeping Biden's old Senate seat in Democratic hands.
With tea party-backed Republican Christine O'Donnell lagging badly in the polls against Democrat Chris Coons, the trip Friday could provide Obama a chance to highlight O'Donnell's hardline views and argue that she's an example of GOP extremists.
The event is part of a busy campaign homestretch that will send Obama coast to coast trying to raise money and generate enthusiasm for Democratic candidates trying to hold the party's majorities in the House and Senate. He's wrapping up the week with additional trips to Massachusetts and Ohio.
The Delaware race once was seen as a likely Republican pickup until O'Donnell pulled off an upset in the GOP primary last month over Rep. Mike Castle, a moderate who had been heavily favored to win in November.
O'Donnell's campaign has since been dogged by questions about her background and evangelical views she espoused as a conservative television commentator. She has been parodied relentlessly over remarks she made years ago about dabbling in witchcraft as a teenager and opposing masturbation in a drive against premarital sex.
Despite Coons' big lead in the polls, White House spokesman Bill Burton said the president isn't taking any race for granted. There's another, more personal reason, too.
"I think the fact that the state of Delaware is near and dear to the heart of Joe Biden is a factor," said White House spokesman Bill Burton.
Coons, a county executive, is welcoming Obama's help in the Democratic-leaning state. O'Donnell is criticizing the visit, saying it shows Coons would be a big-spending "rubber stamp" for the president's policies.
Their race has drawn strong interest in part because it has exposed deep divisions between tea party supporters and the Republican establishment.
GOP leaders in Washington and Delaware criticized O'Donnell in unusually strong terms before her win, accusing her of lying about her education and record, leaving a trail of debt that included tax liens and a default on her mortgage, and using campaign finances for personal expenses.
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