Posted: Dec. 8, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Newt has his surge here, too.

Newt Gingrich, who has been left for dead in politics enough times to be the envy of Richard Nixon, nevertheless nudged out Mitt Romney in a modest presidential straw poll, taken Wednesday evening by the state Republicans at a Delaware Day dinner.

The tally had Gingrich with 39 votes, Romney with 38 votes, Rick Santorum from neighboring Pennsylvania with six votes, Ron Paul with five votes, and five other candidates splitting another 10 votes, including two write-ins for Sarah Palin.

"It is essentially at this point a two-man race in Delaware," said John Sigler, the state party chair.

In most cases straw polls could be called grain-of-salt polls, for what they should be taken with, because the victory unfailingly goes to the campaign that buys the most tickets, but this one deserved a look because it could not be bought.

The balloting was limited to Republican State Committee members, delegates and alternates to the state convention in April and delegates from the Delaware Federation of Republican Women, all people who take their Republican politics seriously. There were 98 of them present and voting.

It might even matter.

The Republicans heard it might from Rick Wiley, the party's national political director, who gave the keynote remarks at the dinner attended by about 250 people at the Christiana Hilton Hotel.

Wiley suggested that clinching the nomination could take until mid-April or so, just about enough time to stretch from the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3 to the Delaware presidential primary on April 24.

Gingrich's reputation for mad brilliance and self-indulgent leadership has meant trouble getting endorsements from the congressional Republicans he led as the speaker from 1995 to 1999, and now he has lost another one here in Delaware.

Mike Castle, the Republican congressman from 1993 to 2011, came out for Romney during a brief interview at the dinner after leaning that way all along.

"I will support Romney. I think Newt speaks for himself. I seriously question the likelihood of his winning. I do think these are the two candidates. I am surprised at the number of members of Congress who have not endorsed Newt," Castle said.

Beyond presidential politics, the dinner amounted to the stirrings of a party trying to come back from a disastrous election in 2010.

It was an opportunity for the Republicans who have expressed an interest in running on the 2012 statewide ticket to roam around. Good idea. Mostly they were introducing themselves as candidates against Democratic officeholders who need no introduction.

There was Kevin Wade, who is exploring a candidacy against Tom Carper in the Senate race. There was Tom Kovach, the New Castle County Council president, earnestly circulating a fund-raising letter for his congressional campaign against John Carney.

Jeff Cragg, thinking about taking on Jack Markell for governor, attracted little gaggles wherever he went. Ben Mobley, looking to benefit from a Democratic primary for insurance commissioner, came armed with a flier to pass out.

The biggest applause lines for the Republicans seemed to be the barbs aimed at the Delaware Democrat they love to hate. Guess who.

"We love -- love! -- when Joe Biden goes out on the road," Wiley cracked in his keynote remarks. "I'm not sure I send Joe Biden anywhere."

Actually, the state chair knew where to send him. "We're going to send Joe Biden out to pasture," Sigler said.

Meanwhile, Biden -- who was sent overseas to Iraq, Turkey and Greece -- was taking pot shots at Gingrich in an interview from afar, as the Wall Street Journal noted.

"I don't want to sound like Newt Gingrich," Biden was reported to say with a smile. "I don't want to sound like I'm inflating my importance."

Just think, Biden and Gingrich in a running dialogue? If global warming has not been caused by humans yet, it will be.