Posted: Nov. 3, 2009


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There is no such thing as a coincidence in politics. No one needs the clairvoyance of Sherlock Holmes, divining why a dog did not bark, to know something is up.

Here in Delaware, something is really up.

Bill Clinton is coming to Wilmington next Tuesday to headline the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, the Democrats' biggest event of the year. Stephen Colbert, the faux-conservative comedian of the "Colbert Report," went to Washington two weeks ago to tape a segment with Mike Castle, the Republican congressman.

Clinton and Colbert? It is plainer than goat entrails what it means.

"Wow! That is very, very interesting, indeed," said Jim Soles, a political seer, also known as a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Delaware. "It's going to be a hotly contested Senate seat."

Take it from Soles. Clinton + Colbert = Senate race.

Voters should prepare themselves. The campaign probably should come with a warning label.

Joe Biden stirred up this maelstrom. The Democratic vice president has become more of a presence in Delaware politics than the chicken dinner.

This is Biden's old Senate seat, and it is available by design. Ted Kaufman, the trusted ex-aide appointed as the replacement, pledged to stay only until someone else was elected in 2010 for the last four years of the term.

The siren song of an open Senate seat was too much to resist for Castle, a nine-term congressman and ex-governor, and now it is a matter of waiting for a word from Beau Biden, the Democratic attorney general, about his interest in following his father.

With Beau Biden still officially mum, this is where Bill Clinton comes in.

It is hard to think Clinton would be appearing at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner if the Democrats were expecting to run, say, Karen Weldin Stewart for the Senate. (The insurance commissioner. How quickly people forget.)

This is what happens when the Biden name is going to be on the line, a filibuster-proof Senate for the Democrats could be, and it is never too early to get the party fired up.

One guess who arranged for Clinton. "People in high places. Joe obviously helped," said John Daniello, the Democratic state chair.

Clinton has had the desired effect. The 1,500-seat dinner at the Chase Center on the Wilmington Riverfront is a sellout. No wonder -- considering the reaction at a meeting of the New Castle County Democratic Party, one of the first gatherings to hear about it.

"Everybody was in such shock, they just sat there for 20 seconds, and then everybody applauded," said Erik Schramm, the Democratic county chair.

Clinton is tough to top. Colbert is not a bad try.

Colbert's show is an unusual length for a politician to go for national attention. It is probably fair to describe his style as waterboarding, only funnier.

"The whole thing is a little terrifying," Castle said.

Castle spent more than two hours taping with Colbert. The segment has not been scheduled to air yet, and Castle has no idea how it will look, because it will be edited down to roughly five minutes.

Their session will be part of a feature called "Better Know a District," Colbert's skewering of members of Congress. One of the most memorable was his joust with Eleanor Holmes Norton, the congressional delegate from Washington, when he insisted she was not from the United States because she was from the District of Columbia -- "not a state, just by definition."

Colbert did ask Castle, whose single-district state makes him the congressman-at-large, what was he was at large for? There was also a series of questions about Delaware Blue Hens, apparently so Colbert could talk a lot about cocks. It is late-night comedy, after all.

Not too long ago, Castle became a YouTube star when he was confronted at a town-hall meeting by a "birther" questioning Barack Obama's citizenship. Now he has chanced Colbert.

What are the odds Beau Biden makes it to Oprah?