Posted: Aug. 25, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Sherlock Holmes with his keen observations and Victorian sensibilities was mindful of paying attention not only to what did happen, but what did not, like a dog that did not bark.

It does not take much in the way of contemporary ratiocination to note that in the Republican statewide primaries for the Senate and House of Representatives, there is a political dog not bothering to woof.

Police Inspector Gregory: "Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

Inspector: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."

Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

In the detective story, the curious incident of canine quiet was an ironclad clue. It meant the culprit was someone the dog knew. Here in Delaware, there is a curious incident of political silence, also not to be missed.

Delaware is right in the mix of critical elections that are going to decide the balance of power in the Congress, where the Democrats are clinging precariously to control of both chambers. Having open races for both the Senate and House seats will have that effect.

The Republicans have a primary in each race. In similar situations around the country, it has led to great ballyhoo with a noisy descent of conservative icons like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, not to mention the Club for Growth and a traveling tea party choosing up sides.

Palin barreled into Nevada to elevate Sharron Angle in the Republican primary for the nomination to take on Harry Reid, the Senate's Democratic majority leader. The Club for Growth was there to drive Charlie Crist, the Florida governor, out of the Republican senatorial primary to make his way as an independent. The governor! 

But here? It is Sherlock Holmes meets Simon & Garfunkel. The sound of silence.

There is barely a pulse in the Senate primary where Mike Castle, the Republican congressman and ex-governor, is all but bypassing Christine O'Donnell. He has the party endorsement, of course, and she has, well, it would be ascribing too much life to her campaign to say she has hoisted aloft the conservative banner. Perhaps the conservative dental floss.

The Democrats do not have a primary but Chris Coons, the New Castle County executive, as their candidate for the Senate seat now occupied by Ted Kaufman, the Democrat temporarily appointed to it after Joe Biden left to be the vice president.

The Republican congressional primary has Michele Rollins, a Centreville business executive who has the endorsement, and Glen Urquhart, a Sussex County developer running to her right. The Democratic candidate is John Carney, the former lieutenant governor, for the seat Castle is leaving after nine terms.

Primary Day is Sept. 14, less than three weeks away. Despite the come-hither split between the party regulars and the tea party types in both contests, these Republican races are national wallflowers. The outsiders have stayed out.

"There is no reason for a Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich to come in here and have a candidate embarrass them by losing -- or by winning," quipped Bill Lee, the Republican retired judge who ran for governor.

Lee may have something there. O'Donnell is a perennial Senate candidate whose campaign finance reports read like an account of her household expenses. Urquhart had a YouTube moment insisting the separation of church and state was not so much a principle defended by Thomas Jefferson, but a plot by Adolf Hitler.

Not that the Republican establishment wants to let on, but there have been back-channel communications suggesting the conservative insurgency really ought to keep its distance from Delaware, or else the Republicans can kiss those seats good-bye.

This is not a state that takes kindly to hubbub, and it prefers its politicians to be practical, not partisan. Not to mention there are 100,000 more Democrats than Republicans on the voter rolls.

"It speaks to the caliber of candidates we've recruited. Both of these candidates win their respective primaries and take the fight to the Democrats," said Tom Ross, the Republican state chair.

As the quiet stretches on, there are fingers crossed that it will hold and that it will break.

"Would we love somebody like Mr. Huckabee or Mrs. Palin to do an endorsement? Sure, we would. We're working on it. Whether it happens remains to be seen," said David Anderson, the press secretary for Urquhart.

This is the loudest silence in the land. It is a clue. Here in Delaware, the candidacies of Castle and Rollins are the best the Republican right can get.