Posted: June 10, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The wilting heat of the weekend was over, the blizzard snows of winter long forgotten. As the Delaware Republicans hobnobbed Monday evening during the "Salute at Vicmead," the premier event on their calendar, the weather was perfectly moderate.

Maybe this really is their year.

The state Republicans are trying to turn around their political fortunes here by reprising their glory days, when their statewide candidates were moderate to mildly conservative, and seldom was heard a fundamentalist word, and the skies were not cloudy all day.

It is hard to remember, now that the Republicans are down to two of the nine statewide offices and out of power in the General Assembly, but once they were the prevailing party. They had popular governors, as many as six of the statewide offices in the mid-1990s, and a formidable majority in the state House of Representatives.

The proof was sitting there among 250 or so Republicans taking in the fine evening air under a huge white party tent at Vicmead Hunt Club in Chateau Country.

It was Pete du Pont and Mike Castle, their back-to-back governors, a reminder of what used to be.

What looks like a promising election for the Republicans is hardly guaranteed, however. The state has fallen out of the habit of voting for Republicans not named Castle, and the electorate has 100,000 more Democrats than Republicans. Still, if not now for the Republicans, when?

The voters are restless, what with the economic doldrums and the oil spill. Not to mention history is on the Republicans' side, because the president's party typically sustains losses at mid-term. Nor does it hurt that there are open races for senator and the lone congressional seat.

It all makes the Republicans' prospects for a turnaround about as far-fetched as, say, Ted Kennedy's seat going Republican.

"This is truly a good Republican year, but only if we go out and make it so," Castle told the ensemble at Vicmead.

"We're not going to win without Democrats and independents. We need to convince people they need to vote for us because we are the people who can run the state better, who can run this country better."

So moderate it is. The Republicans went that way last month when they endorsed a statewide slate at their convention, favoring Castle for the Senate and Michele Rollins to replace him in the House of Representatives. Out went the conservative candidacies of Christine O'Donnell for senator and Glen Urquhart and Kevin Wade for representative.

The Republicans also have Tom Wagner running for re-election as auditor and Colin Bonini for treasurer. Bonini is right out of the conservative camp, but he is running for treasurer, after all, and his fiscal conservatism has party-wide appeal.

There is also, as Castle casually put it, "whoever's going to run for attorney general."

Never mind. It shows the Republicans are being realistic, not delusional. This is still Delaware, and the attorney general is still a Biden.

How moderate was the Vicmead crowd? So moderate that Castle was introduced as a champion of campaign finance reform without someone throwing something slimy from the raw bar.

Some of the loudest applause of the evening was for Rollins, and no wonder. As the primary season unfolds, women are running well everywhere, and the one who is a Democratic senator in Arkansas just held off a lieutenant governor.

People should have seen a "Year of the Woman" coming. Why else would Massachusetts have decided that what it wanted in a senator was a centerfold from Cosmo?