Posted: Nov. 6, 2009


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Virginia is not New Jersey is not New York is not Delaware.

In the smattering of elections around the country Tuesday, the results arose from their own local alchemy. Still, the off-year contests did not occur in isolation, either.

Without making too much if it, there were four lessons to take from four key races, as Delaware gets ready for the 2010 campaign season.

The voters are restless.

The voters chucked the Democrats out of the governors' offices in Virginia and New Jersey, put a scare in Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City, and gave the Republicans the heave-ho in a congressional district in upstate New York.

Virginia had to be particularly galling for the Democrats. Their national chair is Tim Kaine, the outgoing governor who could not deliver his own state.

This is what happens when the economy barely has a pulse and wars do not go into remission.

"Tuesday shows that Obama's message still works -- change and problem-solving. In this instance, Republicans were better-positioned to sell the message in Virginia and New Jersey, " said Joe Pika, a political scientist at the University of Delaware.

"So long as there's still lots of pain out there, people will be looking for a better set of solutions."

There is a sardonic irony in the voting. People want stability, and they are going to keep voting for change until they get stability.

If the voters stay restless next year, there could be no better place to express it than Delaware. . . .

The Senate race could be political Ground Zero.

Joe Biden has done more to make a Delaware politician a household name than anything since the Roth IRA.

He has given the state new pride. He has given late-night comics a new fall guy. Next he could give the voters a new flashpoint. Barack Obama's name will not be on a ballot in 2010, but Biden?

The Democrats are awaiting word that Joseph R. Biden III, the attorney general better known as Beau Biden, will be their candidate in the contest for his father's old Senate seat against Mike Castle, the Republican congressman and ex-governor.

This is the race that could be a living, breathing campaign slogan, where yes-we-can collides with no-you-didn't.

"Biden will have to run on the administration record. He can't disassociate himself from his father. So the pace of economic recovery will be the critical issue," said Pika, the UD professor.

"A Biden-Castle race would truly be a referendum on the Obama record."

Give weight to the treasurer's race.

Colin Bonini took heart from New Jersey's gubernatorial election, where Chris Christie, the beefy Republican, ousted Jon Corzine, the bearded Democrat.

Bonini is the Republican state senator from Dover with his eye on running for treasurer. The Democrats have a couple of candidates looking at it, although they are likely to go with Velda Jones-Potter, the appointee Gov. Jack Markell chose to replace himself.

It is a tossup whether Bonini has quit on more diets or more exploratory campaigns for statewide office. He has both in the works now, weighing 40 pounds less while weighing the treasurer's race.

Bonini saw Christie's win as a sign this really could be his time.

"Maybe it's going to be a good year for a big guy who wants to reduce the size of government," Bonini quipped.

Joe Biden gets bragging rights.

The brightest spot for the Democrats in the off-year races was a special election in a congressional district in upstate New York. Joe Biden was there.

The Democrats picked up a seat that has gone Republican almost as long as there has been a Republican Party. Democrat Bill Owens was the lucky bystander as the Republicans brawled among themselves, with a conservative driving out the establishment candidate.

A column by John Dickerson in Slate, an online magazine, noted:

"The win was also good news for Joe Biden. He made a last-minute trip to the district to campaign for Owens. Some thought it was risky. The opposition mocked him. Former Sen. Fred Thompson cracked, 'You know, the vice president's job is to attend funerals. Maybe he came a day early.'"

Thompson was in the wrong state to say that. New York for a time was home to Mark Twain. It should have been a reminder that a report of death can be greatly exaggerated.