Posted: Oct. 7, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Republicans here in Delaware have not shown much inclination to go for a presidential candidate early and often. It is even legal, and they are not doing it.

"The Christie mystique was keeping some people on the sidelines," said John Sigler, the Republican state chair.

Chris Christie might have been the next best thing to a favorite son, a University of Delaware graduate, the governor of a state only a bridge crossing or a ferry ride away, but he turned out to be more elusive than the Jersey Devil in the Pine Barrens.

Oh well, Delaware will always have K.C. Keeler, who left New Jersey to coach football here.

Christie is not running, so where will the Delaware Republicans turn their attention? As much as Christie was attractive as the guy next door, neighborliness only goes so far. There has not exactly been a stampede to Rick Santorum.

To tell the truth, not a lot of people usually get involved in the nitty-gritty of presidential nominations. This is understandable.

For one thing, it takes forever. For another, it can be as confounding to follow as those games of Quidditch that Harry Potter played at Hogwarts with beaters, bludgers, a golden snitch and the occasional spell cast by meddling wizards.

For example, it might be nice to know when the voting starts. Iowa and New Hampshire, the states that get to go first, have not decided. Maybe early January. Maybe December. The candidates could take time out for Secret Santa.

There is also a madness to the method with a mishmash of primaries and caucuses and beauty contests. Some states award their delegates winner-take-all, but others distribute them proportionally. Unaffiliated voters are sometimes welcome to vote, sometimes excluded. Not to mention the rules are different everywhere for getting on the ballot.

What a way to pick the leader of the free world.

A new state law has Delaware voting later rather than sooner. It is participating in something of a Northeast regional primary on Tuesday, April 24, along with Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. At least that makes some sense.

A late date can doom a state to irrelevancy, but maybe not. There really is no telling what will happen with presidential campaigns, which tend to take on a life of their own. As Steve Schmidt, a Republican political consultant, said when he spoke recently at the University of Delaware, "At the end of the day, presidential campaigns end when you run out of money."

Neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Perry looks like they have to worry about running out of money anytime soon. They could be another version of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton scrounging for late votes in Guam and Puerto Rico.

So there are stirrings among Republicans here. Romney has a rudimentary organization, enough of one to have a weekly conference call with his local backers and campaign operatives.

"We're working to have a positive impact on the Romney campaign, whether in December 2011, April 24 or November 2012," said Greg Lavelle, who doubles as the minority leader in the state House of Representatives and the Republican state vice chair.

No other candidate appears to have a structure here. Sigler, the Republican state chair, says he has encountered supporters for Perry and activists for Herman Cain, but nothing formal.

As the party leader, Sigler himself has pledged to stay neutral, but other Republican officials can be expected to commit, like Priscilla Rakestraw and Laird Stabler, both members of the Republican National Committee. Neither has settled on a candidate yet.

"My inclination is probably to do it sooner rather than later," Stabler said.

Republicans also will be watching to see what Mike Castle, the former governor and congressman, decides. He is looking at Romney. "That would probably be my direction," Castle said.

It all seems so tepid, except for one thing. "We have a president. He needs to go," Sigler said in a voice that sounded like, now hear this.