Posted: Oct. 20, 2016


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Return Day is coming. It is the promise of every Delaware election.

Return Day is coming. No matter how tawdry the campaign season gets, no matter how high the invective rises, the winners and the losers will make the pilgrimage to The Circle in Georgetown, the Sussex County seat, on Thursday after Election Day.

They will ride together in a parade and bury a hatchet literally and figuratively, and the politicians will congregate in cozy camaraderie behind the courthouse, gloat a little and console a little and do what they do best, which is search out somebody else's drink to lubricate themselves and somebody else's spread to ease their hunger.

Return Day is not coming to the presidential campaign.

Things blew up Wednesday evening in volcanic profusion, coming amid a remarkable stretch of three and a half hours that could not have shown more starkly the difference between the statewide and presidential races.

It was in back-to-back-to-back debates. Governor. Congressperson. President.

It was not fair. Binge-watching debates should probably be a controlled substance.

Brains can get so scrambled, it is like winding up inside a James Bond plot with the Russians hacking 33,000 emails and deleting a video that has grown men talking about Pussy Galore.

The sedately state debates were staged one after another at the University of Delaware in Newark, and they radiated the spirit of Return Day. The brawling presidential debate followed immediately afterwards in Las Vegas, because where else would a crapshoot be?

Who could have predicted that Donald Trump would warn he might repudiate the election returns by declaring in the most stunning moment of the evening, "What I am saying is that I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense"?

Ditto that Trump would call Hillary Clinton "such a nasty woman" or Clinton would suggest Trump would be Putin's "puppet"?

Oh, for a few calming choruses of the state song. All together now . . .

Oh, our Delaware! Our beloved Delaware!

For the sun is shining over our beloved Delaware!

How tame were the Delaware debates? So tame that the gubernatorial forum had John Carney, the congressman running for the Democrats, and Colin Bonini, the state senator running for the Republicans, competing to show how bipartisan they could be.

Bonini is the decided underdog in the race, but he won this round when he quipped, "I've never voted a straight ticket in my life. There's some chance I voted for a guy on this podium."

Sure, they had their disagreements, most notably about capital punishment, when Carney said he preferred to let the state Supreme Court's recent decision, finding the death penalty law unconstitutional, stand and Bonini committed to signing a revised death penalty bill into law, if he were the governor.

It was more of the same for the congressional debate with Lisa Blunt Rochester, the Democratic candidate, and Hans Reigle, the Republican candidate.

They turned in gracious performances, even on a matter as politically charged as guns, as Reigle called himself a strong Second Amendment man and Rochester replied yes, but, "things have gotten crazy" and she would stand up to the National Rifle Association.

The Delaware debates made Return Day seem so close. Unlike the presidential showdown, which does not look like it will end with the candidates burying a hatchet but with trying to drive a stake through the other's heart.