Posted: Feb. 3, 2004
JOHN KERRY CAME, HE SAW, HE
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
Delaware Democrats voted in
droves for John F. Kerry in the primary here Tuesday, ratifying the
earlier decisions of Iowa and New Hampshire that the angular senator
from Massachusetts has the stature and the bearing to rival
President George W. Bush and the Republicans in the 2004 election.
State Democrats also tolled
the end of Joseph I. Lieberman's campaign by giving a distant,
second-place finish to the Connecticut senator, who courted them
more ardently than the other six candidates combined and regarded
Delaware as a must-win if he was to save a candidacy that simply
never caught on.
North Carolina Sen. John R.
Edwards demonstrated the surprising resiliency that he has shown
elsewhere by coming in third without even trying, a nip behind
Lieberman and slightly ahead of former Vermont Gov. Howard B. Dean
and retired General Wesley K. Clark.
The Rev. Alfred C. "Al"
Sharpton, who joined Kerry and Lieberman as the only candidates to
campaign in the state in person, finished back in the pack with only
Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich behind him.
Kerry competed in Delaware
with only the bare necessities of an operation. It was so elemental
that Diane Clark Streett, the New Castle County register of wills,
wound up unexpectedly as its designated spokeswoman when state
Democrats gathered at their party headquarters in New Castle to
watch the returns.
"We all know that up to this
point it's been a tough scramble," Streett said. "Tonight Delaware
has spoken as to who they want to be the leader of the team. As
Kerry says" -- and here the crowd called out one of Kerry's
signature lines with her -- "Bring it on!"
collapsed so quickly that U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, his campaign
chairman here, was rushed to a microphone to speak before the
candidate officially withdrew.
"Our warmest and heartiest
congratulations to John Kerry for a very impressive victory," Carper
said. "If I had to do it all over again, I would stand right by Joe
Lieberman's side. Whether you wear a 'Joe' button or any of the
others, we're going to be united."
Delaware was one of seven
states holding primaries or caucuses Tuesday, a week after New
Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary became a springboard to
front-runner status for Kerry.
As the returns came in
across the country, they showed Delaware as part of the Democratic
trend for Kerry, who claimed a majority of the states by also
winning in Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico and North Dakota.
With 100 percent of the vote
in, Delaware's unofficial primary results showed: Kerry, 50 percent;
Lieberman, 11 percent; Edwards, 11 percent; Dean, 10 percent; Clark,
10 percent; Sharpton, 6 percent, Kucinich 1 percent; others, 1
On a dismal, rainy day, the
primary drew only a modest showing from the state's 224,721
registered Democrats, with 15 percent of them going to the polls.
Even so, the turnout was a marked improvement over 2000, when
only 5 percent of the Democrats voted in an election that Albert
Gore Jr. won over Bill Bradley. It counted for progress in a state
holding only its third presidential primary after switching away
from caucuses in 1996.
Delaware Republicans did not
vote at all Tuesday, opting not to have a primary because their
national ticket is locked in place. Instead, the party staged an
evening rally in Wilmington with Doro Bush Koch, the president's
The state's independent
voters stayed home, barred by law from voting in party primaries.
Kerry claimed victory here
four days after staging the highlight of the primary season -- a
rally at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union
hall in New Castle, where about 500 Democrats thronged to see him
and much of the state's Democratic establishment closed ranks around
him with an approving nod, although not a formal endorsement, from
U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Kerry's campaign stop -- the
first ever by a front-runner for the nomination of either major
party -- was enough to overwhelm Lieberman's diligent spade work.
Lieberman got an early jump
on the other candidates, becoming the first to campaign here once
the state went up for grabs after Biden declared in August he would
not run. Lieberman improved his standing further by collecting
endorsements from Carper, Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. and Treasurer
Jack A. Markell, but in the end his efforts could not withstand
Kerry's building tide -- not even when he sent in his own mother to
campaign for him.
The primary produced another
first here. It was the appearance of a "Spin Room," a gathering of
representatives from all of the campaigns after a political event,
most often a debate, in one place to put the best "spin" on what
happened in interviews with reporters.
The Spin Room occurred at
Democratic state headquarters in New Castle, but if truth be told,
there really was not much spinning that occurred. Most of the
campaigns simply congratulated Kerry on his win and urged the party
to pull together.
Wilmington Councilman Norman
M. Oliver followed that script on behalf of Sharpton. "We wish we
had more resources, but if anyone knows Al Sharpton, he's a fighter
and he'll be around," Oliver said. "It's important we all stand
together and beat George Bush."
There was a brief flutter as
Delaware Democrats heard about 15 minutes before the rest of the
country that Lieberman was going to withdraw, as Carper and Markell
took a telephone call from the candidate letting them know the
decision was made. Not that they had not expected it.
Carper credited Kerry with
coming to Delaware to seal his success. "He probably would have won
even without it, but it was a smart move. It was the icing on the
cake," Carper said.
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