Posted: Jan. 11, 2008


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There is more order in an Easter egg hunt for three-year-olds than in the Republican presidential contest about now, and the endorsements in Delaware are in the same dizzy condition.

They are all over the place.

The Republicans' two statewide officeholders have peeled off in different directions and at different times. Congressman Mike Castle committed early to John McCain, but there was not a peep from Auditor Tom Wagner until he went public this week with his support for Mitt Romney.

Castle was attracted to McCain's damn-the-torpedoes approach, the independent streak that matches his own. Wagner was sold on Romney's background as an "executive-type administrator."

There is a similar divergence between National Committeewoman Priscilla Rakestraw and National Committeeman John Matlusky. She backs Rudy Giuliani. He is a McCain man.

Among other party officials who weighed in, Vice Chair Vance Phillips signed on with Mike Huckabee, and Secretary Cathy Murray favors Giuliani.

With the nomination so wide open, the candidates need all the help they can get to sway the voters. Since Delaware is such a tiny prize on Super Duper Tuesday, when 20 or so states vote on Feb. 5, it is a cinch they will be relying on their surrogates instead of coming themselves.

"That's not going to happen," said Terry Strine, the Republican state chair who is neutral himself.

Giuliani, McCain and Romney did drop by the state last year. It left Vance Phillips so determined to get a personal look at Huckabee that he went to Iowa during the week before the voting there on Jan. 3 to volunteer. He managed to catch up with the Huckabee himself at a rally.

Giuliani was the only candidate to set up a Delaware campaign office. He also is sending in Steve Forbes, his national chair, who will be the featured speaker Saturday at the Republicans' Lincoln Day Dinner in Dover.

Forbes has a history here, endearing himself as the only candidate who campaigned in the state when it held its first presidential primary in 1996 after years of Iowa-like caucuses. He won.

As scattered as the endorsements are now, the Republicans' presidential affections should come into better focus Jan. 25 at a party dinner. There will be a straw poll with the voting restricted solely to Republican State Committee members, about 140 of them, drawn from the party leadership and the seven Republican regions stretching from Brandywine Hundred to Sussex County.

The Republicans also have one un-endorsement. It comes from Everett Moore, a former state chair. He wants people to know he is not the same Everett Moore who endorsed Joe Biden in the Iowa Democratic caucuses. That Everett Moore is the ex-mayor of Walker, a tiny Iowa city of 750 people near Cedar Rapids.

"Maybe my name was the kiss of death, anyway," quipped the Delaware Everett Moore.