Posted: Oct. 30, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The pride of having a favorite son in the presidential race is counterbalanced by the humdrum of it. Not even Dennis Kucinich will set foot in Joe Biden's home state.

It meant the Democrats knew what they were in for Monday evening when about 1,000 of them went to the Jefferson Jackson Dinner, the party's biggest event of the year, at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington.

This is Delaware. They got Biden. They got chicken.

They have been listening to Biden at JJ dinners for 35 years. They have been eating chicken even longer. Biden thundered, and the Democrats waved "Biden for president" signs, but it seemed more routine than rocking. After all, this is Biden's second act in presidential politics. The bloom on the rose has gone silver.

There was one real benefit to Biden as the headliner. It let everyone pretend to ignore the gigantic pink donkey braying in the room -- sorry, no elephants of any color are allowed in Democratic rooms -- and that is the primary for governor between Lt. Gov. John Carney and Treasurer Jack Markell.

The Democrats are so close to having it all -- seven of the nine statewide offices, including the governor and both U.S. senators, the state Senate and perhaps an election away from the state House of Representatives -- but it could be ruined by a divided party.

With Halloween coming on, they spent the evening trying to whistle past that graveyard, or at least joke their way by it, as Tom Carper, the other U.S. senator, did.

"I hope you'll take an oath and join me in saying this. Speak no evil of a fellow Democrat," Carper said. "Let me hear you say it. Speak no evil of a fellow Democrat. Speak no evil of a fellow Democrat. . . . Some of you weren't speaking."

Biden reminded the crowd how lucky they were to have him.

"People show they are desperate, desperate, looking for the Democratic Party to produce from among us someone who can literally lead the world," he said.

"I know the world leaders. I've known them by their first names for years -- not because I'm important -- because you've given me the opportunity for three decades to get to know them," he said.

"I promise you, with all this wonderful talk about how I am the most qualified man or woman in the country on foreign policy and wouldn't I make a great secretary of state, ladies and gentleman, I'm not running for secretary of state."

Of course not. No one runs for secretary of state. You get appointed.

The Jefferson Jackson Dinner brought in enough money to make it seem almost Republican. There were 16 Chairman's Club members at $6,000 each, six Gold Sponsors at $4,000 each, 35 Blue Sponsors at $2,000 each as well as others. Individual tickets went for $45.

The one guaranteed applause line of the event was "Bruce Ennis." A state representative from Smyrna, he is the Democratic candidate in the special election Saturday to replace Jim Vaughn Sr., the late Democratic state senator.

It was just so nice to have a candidate everyone could agree on.

In addition to the primary for governor, the Democrats are looking at multiple candidates for lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner. They did what they could to make the most of it, generally by declaring that the Democrats with too many candidates are better off than the Republicans with too few.

Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn, who is one of those candidates in the mix for lieutenant governor, put it this way.

"The Republicans wish they had our problems. They're desperate for candidates. Alan Levin has a sign up at Happy Harry's. 'Apply to be my running mate. Get 10 free Viagras.'"