Posted: Feb. 24, 2012; updated: Feb. 27, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

For the Republicans, the field is almost set for the presidential primary in Delaware. For the Democrats, the election is already about to be called.

The presidential primary here is scheduled for Tuesday, April 24, two months away, and Friday was the filing deadline for the candidates. There were no surprises.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul turned in their paperwork early enough for election officials to pronounce them certified for the ballot before the deadline. Rick Santorum waited until the last day to file, but his candidacy was approved, too.

On the Democratic side, there is only Barack Obama. Under state law, a single candidate is automatically declared the winner of the presidential primary.

Technically the election officials have to wait a few days to give Obama a chance to withdraw before they can make it official, but come on, like that is going to happen.

So Obama wins! The Democratic primary is canceled. Maybe this is what people mean when they say the president is putting the country on a course toward socialism.

The election officials feel like winners, too, because they only have half as much to prepare for.

"The Democrats don't go to the polls, and I'm grateful. It would be really expensive if they did. It would double the costs," said Elaine Manlove, the elections commissioner.

Manlove is working on a calculation of the amount but does not have it yet.

Delaware has a closed primary system, so only Republicans can vote. There are 17 delegates at stake, winner-take-all, for the Republican national convention in Tampa in late August. It will take the backing of 1,144 delegates to get the nomination.

The state will be part of something of an Atlantic primary, with Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island also voting on the same day.

When the campaign season opened, back in the bright days for Rick Perry and Herman Cain and company, it was impossible for the state Republicans to know if their votes would matter, coming about four months into the calendar of primaries and caucuses. Now it sure looks like they will.

"Delaware will play a role. The earliest anybody can lock it up is the 24th of April. Quite frankly, those 17 delegates may be enough for somebody," said John Sigler, the Republican state chair.

Next comes the hard part. The Republican voters have to choose among the candidates, when they might actually prefer to mix and match.

"Republicans would love to combine the economic acumen of Mitt Romney, the social conservatism of Rick Santorum, the debating skills of Newt Gingrich and the enthusiasm of young voters for Ron Paul into one candidate," quipped Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, in a posting on his Crystal Ball web site.

"That feat must await several generations of advances in genetic engineering."