Posted: Jan. 10, 2004
PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY RUMBLES
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
With three and a half weeks to go before the
Delaware presidential primary, the campaign for Democrat Howard B.
Dean, the candidate who has been the talk of the 2004 political
season, officially got started here on Saturday, although it took a
lot of out-of-staters to do it.
The campaign held a rally and an open house at
its new headquarters in Newark on Delaware Avenue, getting about 100
"Deaniacs" -- as they like to call themselves -- to wave U.S. flags
and "Dean for America" signs during a half-hour outdoors gathering
that was so numbingly cold it made Delaware feel like Iowa or New
Hampshire, where they really do know something about picking
presidents in the bluster of winter.
Here the voters are still getting the hang of
it in only their third primary since the state switched away from
caucuses, so the Dean campaign stocked its rally with ringers --
about 75 from New Jersey and a dozen or so from Pennsylvania,
according to coordinators from those states.
The Delawareans for Dean tended to have the
look of the last lingering protesters from the Sixties and the Days
of Rage. It made Jessica Howell of Pike Creek Valley stand out -- as
a youthful, first-time volunteer who said she was attracted to Dean
as an anti-war candidate because "he spoke out about it and wasn't
The event for Dean was part of a modest
presence of presidential politicking this week, as Delaware prepares
to vote on Feb. 3 in what could be a critical cluster of seven
states, following the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 19 and the New Hampshire
primary on Jan. 27.
Only Delaware Democrats will be going to the
polls to help their party sort through nine candidates. The
Republicans are not bothering because George W. Bush's re-nomination
is a foregone conclusion.
"I think the field will be dramatically
smaller on Feb. 4, and Delaware will have an opportunity to play a
meaningful role in the winnowing process," said U.S. Sen. Thomas R.
Carper, a Democrat who is backing Joseph I. Lieberman.
The state continues to suffer from a dearth of
candidate appearances with only Lieberman and Alfred C. Sharpton
notching multiple trips, John R. Edwards in here once for a private
fund-raiser and the rest not at all, although there is a growing
sense that after Iowa and New Hampshire, several of them could
As for this week, there was a little flurry of
endorsements and some organizational stirrings.
State Sen. Karen E. Peterson, a Stanton
Democrat, endorsed Dean at the Newark rally, praising him as "the
one who can energize Democrats like we have not seen in a long
Wilmington Democratic Councilman Theopalis K.
Gregory endorsed Lieberman in a conference call with reporters,
calling him a centrist and a unifier with a strong urban agenda of
crime-fighting and housing initiatives.
In addition, Richard A. Gephardt's campaign
finally established a presence here, picking up endorsements from
state Rep. Helene M. Keeley, a Wilmington Democrat, and state Rep.
John J. Viola, a Newark-Glasgow Democrat, and also setting up a
small staff, according to spokesman Brian M.P. McGlinchey, a
Delaware official with the Laborers International Union.
McGlinchey predicted that Gephardt would visit
"not once but twice" -- probably after Iowa, a state that is
regarded as essential to the campaign.
The immediacy of the primary is expected to
become more evident next week as Lieberman begins his political
advertising on television and radio. Craig T. Smith, his national
campaign manager, said the organization has earmarked hundreds of
thousands of dollars for a media buy.
Apart from the other candidates, Lieberman
appears to be following the model that led to a fairy-tale win for
Steve Forbes in the 1996 Republican primary, the most notable
victory in the state's short history of primaries. While his rivals
generally neglected the state, Forbes dropped by and also bombarded
the voters with advertising on the airwaves.
Forbes was rewarded for paying attention. As
Carper recently put it, "Delaware is one of those places where
showing up is important."
RETURN TO ARCHIVES
RETURN TO COVER PAGE