Posted: Oct. 15, 2009


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Before there can be a Republican ticket in 2010, there has to be a little political peek-a-boo to see who wants to run with whom and who can make the party swoon, all while teasing out some interest from the voters.

The ticket-mating game was a-winking Sunday evening on "Community Crossfire," broadcast on Comcast's public access Channel 28.

The guests were Mike Castle and Charlie Copeland. They could wind up as the top of the Republican ticket. "Stormin" Norman Oliver, the show's host, certainly was playing matchmaker. Never mind that Oliver used to be a Democratic councilman in Wilmington.

This was Oliver's moment for a Tim Russert impression. He was ticket-fixing.

Castle for the Senate and Copeland for the Congress for the Republicans. Beau Biden for the Senate and John Carney for the Congress for the Democrats.

Castle, the nine-term congressman and ex-governor, is a definite. So is Carney, the former lieutenant governor who lost the 2008 gubernatorial primary, for Delaware's only seat in the House of Representatives.

It seems to be only a matter of time before Biden, the attorney general, comes out for the Senate seat his father left warming with Ted Kaufman, a political confidant, to become the vice president.

That leaves Copeland, who walked away from being the state Senate's minority leader to lose the 2008 race for lieutenant governor. Copeland is playing coy.

It was something of an accident for Castle and Copeland both to appear on Oliver's program. Copeland already was booked when Castle announced he would run for the Senate, so Oliver invited him, too.

The interviews came serially, first Castle and then Copeland, but Oliver pushed to pronounce them running mates. Castle helpfully tossed a bouquet in Copeland's direction.

"Who do you see coming after you?" Oliver asked Castle.

"That's a good question. Charlie Copeland's clearly a strong possibility. There are people like Greg Lavelle and Tom Kovach, who are state House members. John Carney without a doubt will be the Democratic nominee, and he'll be formidable," Castle said.

"This has a chance of being a fairly Republican year, so hopefully it will encourage people to take an interest in it."

Copeland was up next. "Are you running for Congress?" Oliver asked.

"Oh gosh. I don't know. I don't even know who's running on the Democratic side right now. What's Beau Biden doing? If Biden can choose between running against Mike Castle in a general election or John Carney in a primary, I know where'd I be. Carney is 0-for-1 in primaries," Copeland said.

"Oooooooh," said Oliver. Then he tried again. So what about you?"

"Ah, an opportunity like that, you can't at least not look at," Copeland said.

"I've had a lot of people saying to me, Charlie, we want you to run, we'd like you to run, you're the guy that can do it, all that kind of stuff. That's really very flattering, don't get me wrong, but . . .

"You've got to make the decision that's right for you. I would like to run at some point for something. Maybe this is that opportunity, but then again, maybe it isn't."

A classic. Before politicians say yes, they do not say no.

While Oliver worked on the Castle-Copeland tandem, Republican Chair Tom Ross was still sidestepping. "I think we're going to have a congressional candidate we're very proud of, along with a spectacular ticket," Ross said.

"Community Crossfire," aimed as it is at the city's minority community, would not exactly be the forum people would expect to bring them a Republican ticket, but there are reasons Castle and Copeland were on the show.

Castle lives in Wilmington and represented the city during his 10 years as a state legislator. He is also that rare Republican who sometimes carried the city or broke even during his 12 statewide races for lieutenant governor, governor and congressman.

It says something about Castle, but it also says there were years his Democratic opponents did not even measure up to yellow dogs. (As the expression goes in certain Democratic quarters, I'd vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket.)

Copeland is a du Pont from Chateau Country, but he is a favorite of Oliver's. In the 2008 campaign for lieutenant governor, Oliver was with Ted Blunt, a fellow city Democrat, but after Blunt dropped out, Oliver switched to Copeland instead of backing Matt Denn, the Democrat who won.

Oliver also favored Carney in his losing bid for governor. It leads to an inevitable question. If Copeland and Carney oppose each other, who would Oliver support?

"Wow!" Oliver said. "Why would you ask me that?"

There was Oliver. Caught in his own crossfire.