Posted: Aug. 29, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

A party can dream. The Delaware Democrats did it Saturday evening at Cape Henlopen State Park during the Sussex County Beach Jamboree, their traditional kickoff for the campaign season.

The Democrats showcased their idea of the next congressional delegation.

Tom Carper, the senior senator, who is already there with two years to go in his current term. Chris Coons, the New Castle County executive, as the new junior senator. John Carney, the former lieutenant governor, as the new congressman.

This is not to forget the super-member of the delegation. The Democrats talk about Joe Biden with the reverence reserved for guardian angels or Kate Smith singing "God Bless America."

Biden did not attend the jamboree, and it was just as well. Who needs sand in the metal detectors, or metal detectors in the sand? His resident representative was there, however.

"I can't speak for the president or vice president, but I can speak for my dad. He needs your help. He needs Chris Coons in Washington. He needs John Carney in the House of Representatives," said Beau Biden, the attorney general.

The Democrats' dream delegation is not entirely farfetched, but still. Mid-term elections are notoriously unkind to the president's party, and the Republicans have solid candidates of their own.

The Republicans are favored in the Senate race because of Mike Castle, the nine-term congressman and ex-governor who is arguably their most popular officeholder in state history. They also have Michele Rollins, the well-connected business executive, for the House. Unlike the Democratic candidates, Castle and Rollins have to get past primaries on Sept. 14.

The Republicans also have done what they can by unveiling an unconventional ploy. They are letting Beau Biden run unopposed for re-election. The thinking is to keep the Democratic voters less interested in coming out and the vice president less interested in coming in.

What the Democrats have is the safety net of 100,000 more Democrats than Republicans on the voter rolls and the reassurance that Barack Obama has an approval rating of roughly 50 percent in state polls. No doubt there is a halo effect from having a Delawarean as the vice president.

"A lot of people are saying this is going to be a tough year for our party. I just have one thing to say. They're wrong," Carper told about 300 Democrats gathered under a pavilion in the sand dunes.

The jamboree was kind of Carper's show. No Joe. No governor. Jack Markell was needed to comfort his children after the death of a family dog.

Tom Carper was the head Democrat, and he was loving it. He called up Carney to the makeshift stage, and Carney came, a deep-dish aluminum foil pan with his dinner in hand.

"You're eating enough food to kill a normal person. How can you eat this much food and still stay as trim and fit as you are?" Carper said.

"When I was a kid, I grew up in a house with eight brothers and sisters, so you had to eat and you had to eat fast," Carney said.

"Where'd you grow up? Claymont?"

"Claymont. And if you ate fast and you were the first one done, you actually had a chance at seconds. There weren't enough seconds to go around for all nine of us, so I liked to get done first so I could have a shot at seconds. Now they don't have any paper plates left, so they gave me this. And the truth of the matter is, I like it. I feel a little like a dog, but . . . "

"And that house in Claymont? With nine kids and your mom and dad, how many bathrooms?"

"Just one."

"Just one?"

"That's how we all learned how to negotiate."

If Carney had the best comedy routine, Coons served up the surprise. It is not easy for someone from upstate to impress in Sussex, but he did. Coons presented the case for his candidacy.

"We have a political party on the other side of the aisle that has made a decision, a decision that their future lies in saying no. . . . I think the path forward is not through that wall of no, but through the door of yes," Coons said.

"If the folks who have supported Democrats over the years can find it in their heart to see clearly the consequences of putting Mike Castle in that seat, I can be your next senator. . . .

"Folks say, we are at the end of our rope, and we want to know -- as FDR said, when you get to the end of your rope, what do you do, you tie a knot and hang on -- they want to know if help is coming. They want to know if the Democrats are listening and if we care, and I think we do and we are."

When Coons was finished, Carper was heard to quip, "I'm glad I'm not running against him."

Nope. Mike Castle is. It leaves the Democrats dreaming on about their dream delegation.

"Chris mentioned how hard it is to run against someone like Mike Castle, but once you hear Chris Coons talk about the difference between him and Mike, you're going to vote for Chris Coons," Carney told the crowd.

"I hate to say it, but it'd be great if Beau had an opponent, because then, you know, people would come out."