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Republican senators, Castle backers support O’Donnell campaign effort

Nearly a dozen Senate Republicans interviewed by The Hill on Wednesday said they would write checks for their party’s surprise Senate primary winner in Delaware, Christine O’Donnell.

“Already sent it to her this morning,” said Sen. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLive coverage: Georgia Senate runoffs Trump, Biden face new head-to-head contest in Georgia Ex-GOP senator from Georgia suffers mild stroke: report MORE (R-Ga.). “She’s the nominee, and I’m going to support the nominee.”

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There were some signs that the bitter primary between O’Donnell and Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) would divide Senate Republicans. Castle received support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which worried an O’Donnell win could turn a likely Republican pickup in the Senate into a Democratic hold.

But a large number of senators who had donated to Castle said they would donate to O’Donnell, including Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMellman: What happened after Ginsburg? Bottom line Bottom line MORE (Utah), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack Republican senators now regret not doing more to contain Trump MORE (Okla.), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziSenate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes With Senate at stake, Georgia is on all our minds Wyoming mask mandate backed by GOP lawmakers goes into effect MORE (Wyo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOfficials discussing 25th Amendment for Trump following violence at Capitol GOP senator says Trump 'bears responsibility' for Capitol riot Republican infighting on election intensifies MORE (N.C.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerWall Street Journal: GOP Electoral College 'stunt' will hurt US, Republican Party Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over Southwest Airlines says it won't furlough workers after Trump signed relief bill MORE (Miss.), George LeMieux (Fla.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyImpeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Overnight Health Care: Biden unveils COVID-19 relief plan | Post-holiday surge hits new deadly records | Senate report faults 'broken' system for insulin price hikes MORE (Iowa), as well as Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump Rove: Chances of conviction rise if Giuliani represents Trump in Senate impeachment trial Boebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report MORE of Kentucky and Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona.

NRSC Chairman John CornynJohn CornynHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Cruz, Cornyn to attend Biden inauguration McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (Texas) also authorized a $42,000 check from the NRSC to O’Donnell Wednesday morning and said he has already reached out to her as well as to Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), who backed her candidacy.

A handful of Castle supporters said they would not support O’Donnell or had not made up their mind.

Sen. George Voinovich, a centrist Republican from Ohio who is retiring, offered the strongest view: “I have no intention to donate to Christine O’Donnell,” he said.

When asked why, Voinovich replied, “I have nothing more to say.”

“I’m probably going to focus all of my resources on New Hampshire,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), who is also retiring.

“I don’t know her at all,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsImpeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (Maine) said of O’Donnell. “I was a strong supporter of Mike Castle, and I’m disappointed he did not prevail. This came as such a surprise to me. I really don’t know her yet.”

Political analysts said O’Donnell’s victory turned a likely Republican pickup into a Senate hold. O’Donnell and Democrat Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster Security concerns mount ahead of Biden inauguration Trump impeachment collides with Biden's agenda MORE are seeking to win Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFear of insider attack prompts additional FBI screening of National Guard troops: AP Iran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries MORE’s former Senate seat, and some Republicans doubt O’Donnell can win in a general election in a blue state where she will need to appeal to independent and Democratic voters.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe best way to handle veterans, active-duty military that participated in Capitol riot Cindy McCain on possible GOP censure: 'I think I'm going to make T-shirts' Arizona state GOP moves to censure Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake MORE (Ariz.), the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, spent much of 2009 privately urging Castle to run for the Senate, but expressed optimism Wednesday for O’Donnell’s chances.

“Of course I’m sorry that he lost, but I respect the decision of the voters and I certainly support the nominee,” McCain said.

Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.), whose own Tea Party-based upset win last winter cost Democrats their filibuster-proof majority, said he would consider a request to campaign with O’Donnell.

“I’ve always felt that we needed a big tent, an inclusive party,” said Brown. “The fact that she won is a credit to her and her [campaign]. I’m going to be supporting her.”

Hatch, who may face a primary challenge himself in 2012, said: “She’s our candidate, and she won it fair and square.”

He said he was surprised she defeated Castle, “but I have a high opinion of her. I wouldn’t write her off. She came on like a house on fire, and people may really take to her.”

Still, while many Republican senators pledged to support O’Donnell, few on Wednesday disagreed with the conventional wisdom that O’Donnell’s upset has imperiled the party’s chances for retaking the Senate.

“At first glance, it does appear that the seat will be harder to win,” said Wicker. “But I’m trying to continue to be positive about it. We’re going to have to play the hand we’ve now been dealt by the voters.”

“The conventional wisdom was that Mike Castle was seen as a shoo-in,” Kyl agreed. “Obviously, it will not be as easy for Christine O’Donnell. I’m just assuming that’s true; I haven’t seen poll results.”

Other Republicans said opposition to O’Donnell from state and national leaders could actually be an advantage, given voters’ anger and dissatisfaction with incumbents this year.

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O’Donnell was repeatedly and harshly criticized by the Delaware GOP as well as the NRSC during the primary campaign.

“In a way, that sort of thing fortifies her anti-establishment credentials,” said Inhofe. “That could turn around and backfire on them.”

“The goal is to bring people to Washington who want to change Washington,” added LeMieux.