On April 24, Delaware will hold its primary elections, presidential and otherwise. The First State must be expecting a small turnout, because my wife and I cannot vote at our regular polling place. I can’t remember a presidential primary that has generated less local interest. It certainly pales by comparison to 1996, when I proudly voted for Steve Forbes (who won Delaware and Arizona) in an ultimately vain effort to derail the Bob Dole juggernaut. Why the ennui?
First of all, several larger northeastern states – Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New York among them — are holding their primaries on the same day. Pennsylvania’s primary had been viewed as important on the GOP side, at least before Rick Santorum dropped out. Delaware will now be lost in the electoral white noise.
Second, all the drama has gone out of the national Republican “horse race.” Mitt Romney will be the Under-Secretariat that crosses the finish line first. Gingrich, Santorum and Paul will be on the ballot, and perhaps one of them can pull an upset. Even in that unlikely event, the result will be a 15-minute media blip.
Third, for demographic and other reasons, Delaware is no longer a political bellwether. It votes solidly Democratic in presidential elections. Gone are the days when the Delaware result was a reliable predictor of the national outcome. Now, we might as well be Maryland. Or, perish the thought, New Jersey.
The Republican candidates have paid limited attention to Delaware. Romney made a short pit stop in Wilmington a week or so ago. Now, in true management consulting fashion, he can check off the Delaware box and move on. He’s widely considered the “establishment candidate” here, whatever that means. Christine O’Donnell has endorsed him. Since when did she become part of the establishment? Has she pitched a tent in Montchanin?
Newt Gingrich and his wife have been to Delaware a few times, downstate as well as up. According to one website, he’s due back later today. His surrogates urge Delaware Republicans to “send them a message” by voting for him. The last presidential candidate who trumpeted that expression was George Corley Wallace. Doesn’t augur well for Newt. (Note to Sen. Colin Bonini: the next time you fry my answering machine with that interminable robocall, I’ll slash your tires.)
Ron Paul is the wild card in Delaware. Handpainted Paul signs have been sprouting up in Sussex County like sentinel corn. I checked his campaign website, and it doesn’t look like he has scheduled any First State appearances between now and the election. On the other hand, he’s in Rhode Island today – which is even smaller than we are – and he’ll be in Philadelphia on the 22nd. Oh, well, we can experience him virtually. He might be a hologram anyway.
On the Democratic side, not much is going on. Several worthies are vying for the Wilmington mayoral nomination, which is tantamount to election. What a thankless job. If I were a young Democratic hotshot, I’d try to finish second.
We’ll do our civic duty on April 24 and vote in the primary, even though my first two choices never entered the race. This year, it’s like deciding between oatmeal and cold cereal. But, hey, at least we have an election.
What’s the “under” in Vegas for the turnout?