Posted: May 20, 2009


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There are only 530 shopping days left until the next election. Some of the goods were on display last weekend at the Republican and Democratic state conventions.

Something in a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate? Party members camped in wait for a word from Congressman Mike Castle. They wanted it so badly, it was like a Christmastime rush and Castle was Tickle Me Elmo.

Even though the Republicans plastered themselves with "Castle for Senate" stickers Friday at a pre-convention dinner in Newark, he would not guarantee his availability. Just like Tickle Me Elmo!

"If any of you were expecting me to make any kind of announcement tonight, I'm not going to do it," Castle said.

The Democrats also were doting on a candidate, but there was no suspense to it. This one was already gift-wrapped. Former Lt. Gov. John Carney has said he intends to run for Delaware's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, whatever Castle does.

The Democrats are still ashen over what they had to do to Carney, when his primary for governor with Jack Markell forced them to choose between the two party favorites, and Carney came up short while Markell came up governor.

The Democrats were demonstrably eager to make it up to Carney. He did not have to work the room at the convention in Dover. The room worked him.

Markell was the chief cheerleader. "When you go through a process like that, one of two things happens," he said. "You either develop more and more respect for each other, or you go in the other direction, and I can say without any hesitation that I have so much respect for John Carney as a person, as a public servant in the past, and as a public servant in the future."

The fulcrum for the next campaign season clearly is the race for the Senate seat, which Joe Biden kept for the Democrats last year but decided he would rather be the vice president.

The post will be open because Ted Kaufman, the appointed senator who used to be Biden's chief of staff, is doing two years and out.

If Castle runs, it would catapult the contest to the top Senate election for the Republicans in the country. Senate seats have not been easy for the party to come by, and it could do worse than field a candidate who has won 12 times statewide for lieutenant governor, governor and congressman.

The intensity would take a quantum leap if the Democratic candidate was Attorney General Beau Biden, the vice president's son who will not be saying anything about it until he returns in September from a year with his National Guard unit in Iraq.

It is hard to think of anything the Republicans would relish more than taking away a Senate seat that otherwise could belong to the Bidens -- or an affiliate -- from 29-year-old Joe Biden's victory in 1972 through 40-year-old Beau Biden's old age.

Seventy years of Senator Bidens? Seventy-six years? More? Has anybody noticed the way Joe Biden sometimes goes to political events with his grandchildren along?

Castle and Carney had company at their conventions. For other possible candidates in 2010, the gatherings were like giant job fairs.

In addition to the senatorial and congressional elections, the statewide ballot will have races for attorney general, auditor and treasurer.

Naturally Tom Wagner, the state auditor since 1989, was at the Republican convention to remind people his term is up next year. Charlie Copeland, the former Senate minority leader who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor, was table-hopping -- just as though he was the candidate for treasurer he is speculated to be.

There also was a Ferris Wharton sighting. He was the Republican candidate who lost to Beau Biden in 2006 and remains a hero to his party for trying. He could be back.

"In 2010, yes, sure, it's an option to think about," Wharton said.

The Democrats got a chance to say hello to Carl Danberg, the corrections commissioner who looks a lot like an understudy for the attorney general's race. Danberg had the job before as an appointee, in between the time Republican Attorney General Jane Brady became a judge and Beau Biden won the office. For now, Danberg is frozen in place until Biden comes home.

Velda Jones-Potter, the treasurer appointed when Markell left the post for the governorship, put in an appearance with the Democrats. She has not been counted in as a candidate, but she probably ought not to be counted out, either. She is definitely warming to the job.

"I like it a lot," Jones-Potter said.

A convention can be a lot like the tide. It can bring in or it can drag out. This one had Ken Matlusky and Scott Spencer in its currents.

Matlusky would like the nomination for auditor. He is taking his candidacy seriously, but there did not seem to be anyone else who was. Spencer has designs on the congressional seat -- yes, the same one as Carney.

The convention was the day of the Preakness. With the treatment Carney was getting, Spencer would have been less of a long shot if he had lined up for Pimlico on foot.