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O'Donnell complains of 'character assassination'

By Jim Acosta and Bonney Kapp, CNN
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O'Donnell at tightly controlled event
  • GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell blames campaign woes on "liberal media"
  • O'Donnell: "I've put my name on the line. And I've taken ... a lot of character assassination"
  • Comedian Bill Maher released a video clip of O'Donnell admitting she once "dabbled in witchcraft"

Newark, Delaware (CNN) -- Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell is asking voters to give her a second look. At a candidate forum sponsored by a group of local Republicans, O'Donnell blamed her campaign's recent troubles on unfair coverage in the "liberal media."

"I've put my name on the line. And I've taken a lot of hits ... a lot of character assassination," O'Donnell said.

A local GOP leader moderated Wednesday night's tightly controlled event, asking the candidate her positions on taxes, spending and the new health care law. O'Donnell did take a few questions from the audience. But she left the forum via a back door and did not stop for interviews with reporters.

O'Donnell has made fewer public appearances since her stunning Tea Party-backed win in the Republican primary three weeks ago. But just days after her victory, HBO comedian Bill Maher unearthed an embarrassing video clip of O'Donnell admitting she had once "dabbled in witchcraft."

Video: 'I won't have magical powers'

In an effort to reboot her campaign, O'Donnell is now running an ad that tells voters "I'm not a witch. ... I'm you."

Despite her missteps, O'Donnell's Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, points out the GOP contender has raised huge sums of money since her primary win.

"I take her seriously. She is the Republican Party nominee. She's my opponent. If you believe her website, she's raised $2.8 million over the internet in the last three weeks."

The Coons campaign is making light of O'Donnell's recent troubles. On his website is an image from her "I'm you" ad with the message, "Tell Christine O'Donnell: You are not me."

A new University of Delaware poll shows Coons with a commanding lead of 19 percentage points in the race. The professor who conducted the poll, David Wilson, said O'Donnell still has time to close the gap. "There's an awful lot of 'don't know' or undecided voters still, and this is across all three counties," Wilson said.

Despite her campaign's attempts to choreograph her public appearances carefully, Wednesday's GOP forum offered a haunting reminder of O'Donnell's past comments on witchcraft. A Halloween costume shop was just two doors down from the event.

Still, her strongest supporters appear unfazed.

Campaign volunteer Christie Found compared media coverage of O'Donnell to the continuous press stories on Sarah Palin. "If anything, I support [O'Donnell] more," Found said.