Posted: Dec. 10, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Money has not exactly been Joe Biden's strong point in his presidential campaign, but it was good enough to get him on the Democratic primary ballot here.

Candidates looking to run in Delaware's presidential primary on Feb. 5 had to meet a deadline Monday to qualify -- either by submitting the signatures of 500 voters or by being declared eligible for presidential matching funds by the Federal Election Commission.

It looks as though 13 candidates did, six Democrats and seven Republicans.

Biden passed muster for the federal matching dollars last week, although he has not decided whether to accept them because of the spending limits that go with them. Altogether his most recent financial report in October showed he has raised $8 million -- and he could use more.

It is the story of Biden's presidential life -- single digits, just like his poll numbers, even if it was single digits for millions of dollars. The contributions for the front runners spiraled into the high double digits, with $89 million for Hillary Clinton and $79 million for Barack Obama.

In addition to Biden, the Democratic primary ballot is in line to list Clinton, Obama, John Edwards and Chris Dodd, according to state election officials. Dennis Kucinich is expected to be added, once officials confirm he is in line for matching funds.

It leaves only Bill Richardson among the major Democratic candidates as a no-show.

On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo are on the ballot. Election officials are in the process of verifying the signatures for Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson to get them on, too.

Delaware is part of a cluster of more than 20 states with presidential contests on the first Tuesday in February, a day expected to wrap up the nominations after the field has been winnowed by the critical earlier voting in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

It is up to those earlier states to determine whether Biden and his favorite-son status still are alive by the time of the primary here, although the state's voters already have signaled they have their doubts. In a poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University in October, their top Democratic choice for president was Clinton at 41 percent, followed by Biden at 19 percent.

Biden does have one substantial lead in his home state. As of October, he had collected the highest amount of contributions here. He had $798,000, followed by Giuliani with $102,000, Clinton with $72,000, Romney with $63,000, McCain with $46,000 and Obama with $34,000.

In general, though, Biden remains overshadowed, as shown yet again by events last week. While Obama was basking in Oprah Winfrey's endorsement tour, Biden received a woman's vote of confidence that was largely overlooked.

It came from Gennifer Flowers, who apparently finds Biden to be the second sexiest man alive, after old flame Bill Clinton. She told The Associated Press she was leaning toward voting for either Hillary Clinton or Biden.

For better or worse, Flowers called Biden "smart, sexy and experienced."

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When the year began, the congressional Democrats tried to convince themselves the 2008 election would be the one that let them claim Delaware's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after eight terms of Republican Mike Castle.

At first they hoped Castle, who is 68, would retire. Then they thought about trying to scare him off with a proven Democratic vote-getter -- like Lt. Gov. John Carney, Treasurer Jack Markell, Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn, Attorney General Beau Biden or New Castle County Executive Chris Coons --particulary because Castle polled only 57 percent in 2006, a solid victory but nothing near his customary 70 percent.

All of those Democrats, however, found something better to do. Carney and Markell both want to be governor, Denn is running for lieutenant governor, Biden is committed to the four-year term he won last year, and Coons is focused on being re-elected.

As the year ends, it appears the Democrats may wind up with the same unsatisfying situation they had in 2006 -- a lackluster primary between Dennis Spivack, who won the last one, and Karen Hartley-Nagle for the right to challenge Castle.

Spivack expects to decide on his candidacy no later than January. Hartley-Nagle sent out a press release last week to say she was in.

There is one difference, however. In 2006 Hartley-Nagle was the prime example for "fusion" -- the practice of filing with both a major party and a minor party to guarantee a candidate a spot on the November ballot even after losing a primary. This time she has committed to running strictly as a Democrat.

Fusion turned out to be just a little too cute for the voters.

"I decided that I wasn't going to run fusion, because I spent all my time explaining what fusion meant," Hartley-Nagle said. "It wasn't productive."