Posted: June 20, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There were strange sights Monday evening when the Delaware Republicans hosted their "Salute" at Vicmead Hunt Club, the premier event they hold in Chateau Country every year.

Maybe the strangest of all was the fleeting tableau of Mike Castle and Christine O'Donnell standing together and making strained small talk.

This was not reconciliation. This was an accident. Typically Castle and O'Donnell stick to neutral corners, whenever they wind up at the same event, but somehow the currents of the evening randomly carried them to the same spot. They looked desperate. As soon as someone else approached and gave them an excuse to part, O'Donnell fled.

There was also the strange sight of Mike Protack in the embrace of the party.

Protack has been the "Flat Stanley" of Republican politics. If there is an office to run for, he just turns up, like the traveling doll. Governor, senator, party office, whatever, there he is, a distraction at best and the cause of an unwanted primary against a favored Republican at worst. He loses every time.

Protack's current pursuit is president of the New Castle County Council. For anyone keeping score at home, it is something like his ninth try for office.

It is a mark of how depleted the party is, a party with the auditor as the only statewide official to call its own and the minority in both legislative chambers, that it has given in and endorsed Protack. Lo, how the fallen are mighty.

Not that the Republicans had any intention of turning their "Salute," attended by about 200 people milling outdoors under a huge white tent, into a giant pity party. John Sigler, the Republican state chair, insisted they had the Democrats right where they wanted them.

"This is going to be a good year. The Democrats don't see us coming," Sigler said.

So what if the top of the Democrats' endorsed statewide slate -- Tom Carper for senator, John Carney for congressman, Jack Markell for governor and Matt Denn for lieutenant governor -- is an all-incumbent ticket that has collectively won 21 times?

So what if the Republicans' endorsed lineup -- Kevin Wade for senator, Tom Kovach for congressman, Jeff Cragg for governor and Sher Valenzuela for lieutenant governor -- has nobody who has ever been on a statewide ballot before?

The Republicans had Foster Friess as a speaker. He is the retired investor who largely bankrolled Rick Santorum's presidential campaign. He lives in the state of Wyoming but used to be based here in Greenville.

Friess waded fearlessly into touchy topics, namely, religion and money.

"Do we want to have society governed by rules and regulations or to be inspired by values and virtues? We have the opportunity to make that decision as to what kind of society we would have," Friess said.

"Here's something that sometimes gets sensitive, but I believe this with the core of my being. Every one of us here has a responsibility to restore the innate Christian values that undergird our society."

Friess committed to contributing "significant dollars" to Republican candidates here. He seemed particularly to adopt Wade, the senatorial candidate, even if he did mangle one of the best-known names in state politics as he did.

"What's more important for our country going forward than Kevin Wade serves instead of Tim Carper?" he said.

Another strange moment, that tiny "Tim" mistake. God bless us every one.