Posted: Jan. 9, 2008


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The presidential primary here is doing nothing to un-complicate matters for Democratic voters, already conflicted about who they want on their statewide ticket.

Lt. Gov. John Carney, who is running for governor, wants Barack Obama to be the next president. The endorsement, which came in advance of the New Hampshire primary, contributes to a strong hand for Obama to play Feb. 5 in the Delaware primary.

Obama has four of a kind.

Carney's support gives Obama the backing of both Democratic candidates for governor and both Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor. He was endorsed earlier by Treasurer Jack Markell, the competition for Carney for the gubernatorial nomination, and by Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn and Wilmington Council President Ted Blunt, the two rivals for lieutenant governor.

Talk about a presidential candidacy to bring people together. It makes the statewide field about as hard to tell apart as the Teletubbies.

It has been tough enough for the average Democratic voter, particularly torn in the governor's race between Carney and Markell, who are both proven and popular statewide vote-getters, and now this.

Even the way Carney delivered his endorsement was more peas in the same pod. Like the others, he lamented that parting was sweet sorrow from Joe Biden, the favorite son whose campaign did not make it out of the Iowa caucuses, as preface to embracing Obama's candidacy.

"I was a strong supporter of Joe Biden's presidential bid, because I believed that Joe has the character and integrity to provide the leadership America so desperately needs. I worked for Joe when he ran for president in 1988, and he has been an inspiration for my own career," Carney's press release read.

"I have decided to endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president, because I believe he is the candidate who can best bring people together to change the broken political culture in Washington."

If there was consistency in substance, at least there was something of a break in style. Unlike Markell, who did not tip off the party establishment before making his endorsement, Carney did. It was another sign that Carney is the one running the insider campaign for governor.

Carney was especially careful to get up with Biden's camp through Attorney General Beau Biden. "He said, what dad would tell you is, go with your gut," Carney said.

Obama is all about change, and Carney did come up with a way to show it would not be all business-as-usual with him, either. He turned his endorsement into a notable parting from Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, the two-term Democrat who is going with Hillary Clinton for president.

"We need Hillary's results-oriented leadership and commitment to change in the White House to move our country forward," Minner said in a press release issued Wednesday by Clinton's campaign.

Probably no one in Delaware is enjoying the surge toward Obama more than "Stormin'" Norman Oliver, a Wilmington Democratic ex-councilman who also is with Obama.

Four years ago Oliver was an Al Sharpton man, a lonely place to be except in the city. Most of the political luster belonged to Joe Lieberman, who was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Tom Carper as well as Carney and Markell.

Although John Kerry won the Delaware primary in 2004, Sharpton got enough votes to earn himself a delegate to the national convention. Lieberman did not.

"I'm glad to have Jack. He's a smart man. That's what he gets for going with Lieberman last time. He's learned from his mistakes, and John Carney learned from his mistakes. He's smart, too. Come on board," Oliver quipped.

Obama's candidacy has created unexpected unity here. Consensus has never been so confusing.