Posted: Feb. 5, 2008


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

At the exuberance that was Obama-land on Primary Night, it was not the place where the Delaware Democrats’ entrenched chieftains went. 

No Gov. Ruth Ann Minner. She was for Hillary Clinton. No Sen. Joe Biden. Vanquished from the presidential primary field himself. No Sen. Tom Carper. Sidelined since pal Joey got out. 

Four years ago, in the last presidential primary, Joe Biden big-footed everyone. He brought in John Kerry with the election clock running down, and it swept aside the breezy little campaign that Joe Lieberman had going here with the backing of Carper and Lt. Gov. John Carney and Treasurer Jack Markell. 

There was no doubt then who the most muscular Democrat was. Biden delivered for Kerry. Biden might be the next secretary of state. Biden had a son ready to run for attorney general. 

Generation Obama had a different look at the victory party Tuesday evening at Joe's Crab Shack at the Wilmington Riverfront.

At this grassroots celebration of Barack Obama's first-place showing over Clinton, the cheers were led by Carney and Markell, the two Democrats competing to guide their party and their state as governor. They were tapped by Obama to introduce him, tag-team style, at a huge, emotional rally on Sunday.

It was a new day. Out with the 20th Century, in with the 21st.

Amid the crowd that was largely youthful, attired in everything from business suits to Mardi Gras beads, Carney and Markell both credited Obama's victory to the state's appreciation for the personal touch -- Barack and Michelle Obama came here, and Clinton did not -- infused with the candidate's resonance with a new order of voters.

"He has that 'it.' That Kennedy 'it.' The more people who see him and experience that presence, the better he does," Carney said.

"This demonstrates how much a personal visit can make a difference in Delaware. Sen. Obama's visit and Michelle Obama's visit put him over the top by bringing in a whole bunch of new people," Markell said.

Although Obama carried the vote, outpolling Clinton 53 percent to 42 percent, it was too soon to say how they would divide the delegates. The formula was so complex that party leaders still did not have the final breakdown Wednesday.

The Democratic delegation will have 23 members, with 15 of them determined by the primary, and the remaining slots going automatically to elected officials like Minner, Biden and Carper and party leaders, who can vote any way they like.

Among the 15 delegates decided by the primary, a preliminary calculation showed Obama getting seven delegates and Clinton six delegates with two left to be allotted.

Compared to four years ago, the Democratic turnout was huge -- the 96,000-plus voters almost triple the number who voted then. It was an encouraging sign for the party as it tries to energize its base for the November election.

On the Republican side, the state went as expected for John McCain in a winner-take-all primary for 18 delegates. McCain won 45 percent to outpoll Mitt Romney with 33 percent and Mike Huckabee with 15 percent.  

McCain’s chief backer in Delaware was Congressman Mike Castle, the face of the Delaware Republican Party since he was elected governor in 1984.

No generational changes there. No one coming up.

Politics is like a shark. It has to move or die. On Presidential Primary Day 2008, the Democrats had John and Jack, but the Republicans?

They are still like Mike.