Posted: April 24, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Mitt Romney has been stuffing away delegates like the Grinch stealing Christmas, and he got the ones here Tuesday from the Republican presidential primary, too.

Newt Gingrich tried everything he could to be the one who stole Delaware, even if his showing would not amount to much, by playing the merry candidate who comes here and spreads himself all over the state like so many sugarplums.

Instead, the voters let Gingrich know it really was time to give up the bah-humbug act and go home.

They did it even though Romney essentially had dismissed Delaware as an afterthought as he was efficiently finishing off the nomination. This is what happens with candidates who are sure winners. A lot of faults get overlooked.

Romney carried the state by beating Gingrich in a blowout by 2-1, polling 56 percent of the vote against 27 percent for Gingrich, 11 percent for Ron Paul and 6 percent for Rick Santorum, who was still on the ballot even though he bowed out two weeks earlier.

Romney swept all three counties and the city of Wilmington as part of his romp through primaries held simultaneously in five states. He won not only Delaware, but Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Turnout here was a light 16 percent with the nomination a foregone conclusion. Not even the Democrats were around for company. Their primary was canceled, because there was no sense going to the polls when the president has a monopoly on the votes.

There was some thought that Gingrich might find a last measure of self-respect here, because he paid so much attention while Romney did not. Even a little state likes to be heard. If it is too small for some of that don't-mess-with-Texas type of swagger, it can still have beware-of-Delaware gumption.

After all, the state Republicans had sent that message before. There is some enduring satisfaction over what they did in the 1996 primary, the first one after the state switched away from Iowa-style caucuses, when they voted for Steve Forbes, who kept coming here while the rest of the field led by Bob Dole, the party favorite, stayed away.

Gingrich was everywhere, roaming the three counties, drawing good crowds and generally making himself at home. He was around so much, he looked like he was bucking for in-state tuition at the University of Delaware.

"We were honored that he felt Delaware was worth fighting for. The national drumbeat was just way too hard to overcome," said Colin Bonini, a Republican state senator who squired Gingrich around.

Meanwhile, Romney was the un-Gingrich. He did make it here for one grudging event, when it looked like Santorum would still be in the race, but if there is ever a category on "Jeopardy!" for "worst advance work ever," the preparations for this visit could be on there.

Romney upstaged the announcement tour of the Republican ticket for governor and lieutenant governor, ripped open old wounds by acknowledging Christine O'Donnell but not Mike Castle -- a fellow ex-governor, for crying out loud -- and showcased a business where the owners were Maryland residents who contributed generously to Jack Markell, the Democratic governor.

Never mind.

"The underlying message is the primary is over. Mitt's the nominee. It's time to come together and not worry about minor slights. It's time to win the White House," said Greg Lavelle, the Republican state representative who was the chief organizer for Romney.

Delaware held a winner-take-all primary, so the state's contingent of 17 delegates will be casting all its votes for Romney at the national nominating convention this summer in Tampa.

It is always good to be with the winner. Otherwise, the delegation could pay with back-of-the-hall seating and accommodations on the order of the kennels at the Tampa Greyhound Track.

Still, it would be even nicer to be the other state party with the vice president on the ticket.