Posted: Feb. 1, 2004


By Celia Cohen

Grapevine Political Writer

U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. has made up his mind about which candidate to vote for in Delaware's Democratic presidential primary Tuesday, but it is a secret.

It seems as though Biden, once he decided to stay out of the race himself, really decided to stay out of it. He has not endorsed anyone, even though as the state's senior Democrat it would be highly prized and even though his fellow U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper is out there stumping for Joseph I. Lieberman.

"I would never tell the Democrats of Delaware who to vote for," Biden said.

This is not to say Biden is keeping his opinions to himself. He has said repeatedly his favorites in the seven-candidate field are John F. Kerry and Wesley K. Clark, and in the last several days he has shown up at campaign events and held forth.

Biden went to gatherings for both Kerry and Clark, and he said he was prevented only by his Sunday schedule from joining up with Lieberman, who spent the morning campaigning in Claymont and Wilmington.

"These are really good people. I tried to catch up with Joe this morning, but I had to do CNN. All three are so superior to [George W.] Bush," Biden said.

Biden may not be saying which candidate has his vote, but it is possible to parse his public comments for clues.

With considerable fanfare, Biden appeared Friday evening with Kerry at a political rally in New Castle in front of about 500 Democrats, and anybody listening would have been hard put to think Kerry was not his man, not with this sort of ringing rhetoric:

"You are capable of not only beating Bush but capable of doing the one thing America needs the next president to be able to do more than any other . . . . This man has the stature to restore America's stature."

In a much lower key, Biden made the rounds Sunday afternoon with Gertrude Clark, who was campaigning for her husband in Wilmington at the Windsor Apartments and a "Women for Clark" reception at the Delaware College of Art & Design.

It should be noted that Biden's sister, Valerie Biden Owens, is a political consultant whose firm works for Clark, and she was there Sunday with Gertrude Clark.

Joe Biden made it clear he thinks highly of the candidate, saying, "I would be totally comfortable with Wes Clark as president of the United States, as the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."

Then Biden did what he did not do at Kerry's rally. He mentioned the other guy. "He [Clark] and John Kerry -- another good friend of mine -- share something in common. They're both war heroes," Biden said.

Biden also pointed Windsor Apartment residents toward state Sen. David P. Sokola, state Rep. Dennis P. Williams and Wilmington Councilman Charles Potter Jr., who signed on with Clark and attended the session with Gertrude Clark. "They've endorsed Wes Clark. These are the people you really should be listening to," Biden said.

With that, Biden kept his word -- "I would tell people my preferences, but I would never endorse a candidate" -- but if his choice remains anybody's guess, it does not appear to be a particularly hard guess, does it?