Posted: Aug. 6, 2009


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The bobble-head doll probably cemented Joe Biden's cult status in Delaware.

The Wilmington Blue Rocks, the minor-league baseball club, gave out Joe Biden bobble-heads at a game in late July. It made him the only politician linked not only to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton but also to Rocky Bluewinkle and Mr. Celery.

The bobble-head was one of the most popular promotions of the season. Kevin Linton, the Blue Rocks' director of promotions, believes it was right up there with the night they tried to set the record for the most people performing head-and-shoulders-knees-and-toes calisthenics.

Better that Biden should be a bobble-head than touch his toes for all to see.

It has been nearly a year since Obama turned Biden into bobble-head potential by tapping the six-term senator for vice president on the Democratic ticket.

Nothing like it ever happened before to a Delawarean. It has taken some getting used to. Mostly what has happened is Biden has become more like himself.

The kid from Claymont already had sashayed west to Greenville, but once the family compound became home to the vice president, it bloomed into something like the Forbidden City.

Motorcades twisting like a bristling conga line along the skinny lanes of Barley Mill Road are not the only manifestation. The neighbors in Fairthorne and Barley Mill Court keep having little electric blackouts lasting 10 or 15 minutes at a time, as though the power grid blew out from an overload.

"I think they put in the 'red phone,'" quipped Deborah Hudson, a Republican state representative who lives in Fairthorne.

Hudson has become an unofficial intermediary between the neighbors and the Secret Service. For example, there was the issue of the port-a-potties for the agents.

Fairthorne residents had just spent thousands and thousands of dollars landscaping their entrance, and port-a-potties were not exactly the finishing touch they had in mind. After a meeting that Hudson arranged, the Secret Service accommodated with screening and shrubbery.

"As soon as he was elected, it was exciting for about three days, and then it became, oh my God, we have this for four years," Hudson said.

They do have it, because Biden has been back a lot, maybe more than any other vice president. Nor is it just to return to the homestead.

Biden pops up as though he is the Super Senator, big-footing everyone else at a groundbreaking for the restoration of the Wilmington train station, glad-handing at St. Anthony's Italian Festival, speaking at the funeral of state Sen. Thurman Adams in Bridgeville, and so on. Political scientists have noticed.

"He probably spends more time going home than other vice presidents, although most vice presidents want to look out for their home base. Walter Mondale went to Minnesota a lot, both to do events and because he liked being there. He liked to fish and he had a cabin there," said Joel Goldstein, a St. Louis University law professor who is an authority on the vice presidency.

"Thirty-six years in the Senate is a really long time. It's difficult to say no when people have helped you for 36 years."

Forget that third-senator-from-Pennsylvania stuff cooked up for the presidential campaign. This is third-senator-from-Delaware in earnest.

"It's a combination of things that add up to location, location, location," said Joe Pika, a political science professor at the University of Delaware. "Because he commuted between home and the Hill for 36 years, I suspect it's easy for Biden to remain connected to everything going on at the White House and still be able to stay connected with his earlier life."

There is also the possibility that the Law of Averages is simply taking over. Delaware is believed to be the only state that Dick Cheney never visited as the sitting vice president, according to Priscilla Rakestraw, the Republican national committeewoman who kept track.

Unless, of course, the 'undisclosed location' was here. Maybe the Hooters in New Castle?