Presidential politics: With Biden out, Delawareans look elsewhere

DOVER — The first presidential primary is still more than 90 days away, but with Vice President Joe Biden now officially out of the running, Delawareans have begun lining up behind other candidates, particularly Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Sen. Thomas R. Carper

Sen. Thomas R. Carper

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., announced Monday he is supporting Ms. Clinton. The two were both elected to the Senate in 2000.

“She was a terrific first lady, an exceptional senator and colleague and a tireless secretary of state,” Sen. Carper said in a statement. “She is the best candidate for the job as president, and I fully expect she will be elected next November.”

Gov. Jack Markell and the state’s lone congressman, Rep. John Carney, both Democrats, also are supporting Ms. Clinton.

“I think she’d be the best president of those who are out there and I think she’d have the best chance of winning a general election,” Gov. Mark

Sen. Chris Coons

Sen. Chris Coons

Rep. Carney concurred, calling her “the best to carry the Democratic banner in this election.”

They backed Barack Obama in 2008 when the U.S. senator from Illinois was campaigning for the Democratic nomination against Ms. Clinton.

Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., has not yet decided who will get his support. He said Wednesday he likely will make a decision within the next few weeks, noting he is “inclined” to support Ms. Clinton, whom he once traveled to Africa with.

Gov. Markell said while he knows and respects candidate Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, he believes Ms. Clinton “has the extraordinary experience in foreign policy and a lifetime of fighting for the middle class.”

What involvement, if any, he will have in the election is entirely up to the Clinton campaign, the governor said, adding he would be happy to help.

Rep. John Carney Jr. announced Wednesday he will run for governor in 2016. (Submitted)

Rep. John Carney Jr. announced Wednesday he will run for governor in 2016. (Submitted)

While Rep. Carney is supporting Ms. Clinton, he was hoping to support a Biden campaign. He worked for the office of then-Sen. Biden in 1986 with the intention of shifting to his presidential campaign. Ultimately, the Biden campaign fizzled out, ending in 1987 after less than four months.

Rep. Carney said he likes Mr. O’Malley but does not think the former governor is ready to lead the nation.

As for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist from Vermont, neither Rep. Carney nor Gov. Markell are fully in line with his thinking.

Sen. Sanders, an independent seeking to win the Democratic nomination, has focused his campaign on what he calls economic inequality, something Rep. Carney said he is concerned about. At the same time, however, he thinks the senator (“I mean, he’s not a Democrat”) lacks the ability to compromise and find common ground with more moderate politicians.

“I think Ms. Clinton … would be better at working across the aisle with Republicans, which is needed more now than ever in my political career. She was well known for that as a junior member in the Senate from the state of New York,” he said.

As the presumed Democratic nominee with a comfortable lead in most polls, Ms. Clinton figures to win Delaware, which was last won by a Republican presidential candidate in 1988.

However, work remains.

Citizen input

Cliff Baltimore, of Dover, said he was hoping Vice President Biden would run. A registered Democrat and self-described moderate, he plans to vote for Sen. Sanders.

“I hate to say he’s the shiniest of all the turds, but … I don’t trust Hillary,” he said. “I like to think of myself as moderate, but the Republican candidates are way out there this year.”

He said he has not paid too much attention to the race so far but has heard many of Republican candidate Donald Trump’s controversial statements.

Mr. Trump, a businessman with no previous political experience, has been highly critical of Mexicans, called fellow GOP contender Carly Fiorina ugly and said Sen. John McCain, who spent more than five years in a prisoner-of-war camp in Vietnam, is not a war hero.

Dover resident Shwon Scott, who has been closely following the campaigns, thinks either Ms. Clinton or Mr. Trump will win the election. While he is a registered Republican, he plans to vote for Ms. Clinton.

He’s frustrated with a lack of focus on what he believes are the important issues.

“Really, jobs,” he said when asked what he would like to see discussed by candidates. “More jobs. Look out for the little people, you know what I mean? It’s enough keeping the rich rich. It’s time for the poor.”

Leslie Ruth is unsure of who she will support. A registered Democrat, she described herself as “not a ticket person” and said she supported Republican Mike Castle, the former governor and U.S. representative, many times.

She would have backed Vice President Biden “10,000 percent.”

Like Mr. Scott and Mr. Baltimore, she is not a fan of Mr. Trump and his unconventional approach. She also has no plans to back Ms. Clinton, who surveys say has some issues with likability, honesty and trustworthiness even as she leads in polls.

“I think she’s got the knowledge and experience. I’m afraid she may not be as … clean,” Ms. Ruth, of Kent County, said.

Ms. Clinton has been criticized for alleged improper use of a private email server, and though Ms. Ruth said she is not particularly bothered over the issue itself, she does not like how Ms. Clinton has been reluctant to share details and admit any wrongdoing.

She noted Ms. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, also had several scandals during his political career.

The Republican field
Michael N. Castle

Michael N. Castle

Although he hasn’t held an elected office in five years, Mr. Castle remains perhaps the best-known Delaware Republican. He does not have a favorite candidate from the Republican side but said he will likely support the eventual Republican nominee, whomever it may be.

Currently, he said he is supportive of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Jeb Bush obviously is not gaining a lot of stature but his father has always been helpful to me in every way so I would stand up for Jeb given the opportunity,” Mr. Castle said.

He served in the House with Gov. Kasich for eight years and feels he is “probably the most knowledgeable person running on either side.” As for Gov. Christie, Mr. Castle is proud of the Delaware connection — long before he was governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie was a University of Delaware student.

He’s also impressed with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio but believes he is likely too young and inexperienced.
Regardless of the electorate’s choice, Mr. Castle is concerned the Republican nominee may not be able to beat

Ms. Clinton, whom he believes has the Democratic nomination all but locked up. While Mr. Castle was well-known in the House of Representatives for working across the aisle, he will not be supporting the former New York senator and secretary of state.

“I don’t see the same will in her to be flexible” as in her husband, Mr. Castle said.

Turmoil and time

In many ways, the Republican race has been almost the opposite of the Democratic contest. The GOP field is much larger, and it has been marked by intraparty fighting with a diversity of views on the issues between conservatives and moderates. Outsiders also have made a notable impression with Mr. Trump and former neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, two men who have no political experience, leading the field in polls.

Mr. Castle was famously defeated in his bid for the Senate in a 2010 Republican primary, with outsider Christine O’Donnell seizing the nomination thanks to a swell from the conservative tea party wing of the GOP.

He noted parallels between the 2016 election and his own race five years ago, which bitterly divided the Delaware Republican Party.

Many people, unhappy of what they see as business as usual in Washington, have pushed for someone far removed from politics, leading to surges from Mr. Trump and Mr. Carson.

“Experience doesn’t count as much,” Mr. Castle said of the 2016 race.

That’s something also noted by Sen. Coons, who said he was “struck by level of infighting and acrimony between the different Republican candidates” and by the anger at the federal government.

Rep. Carney concurred, calling himself disappointed by the conduct of certain Republican candidates, such as Mr. Trump.

“I think it’s important that we recognize that we’re all Americans and at the end of the day it’s important we move our country forward,” the Democrat said.

Delaware’s presidential primary, set for April 26, is one of the later ones. There is time before the race truly heats up — bad news for those who have grown tired of the constant headlines centering on the campaign — but good news for many candidates.

In 2012, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucus in January, and former Georgia Rep. Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary later that month, although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney went on to claim the nomination.

While Mr. Trump and Mr. Carson may be leading now, Sen. Coons, for one, believes the poll numbers are very fluid.

“I think it’ll be a very constantly changing and complicated process, just like last election,” he said.

Mr. Baltimore had similar thoughts.

“Once the number of candidates get reduced, I think people can spend more energy on a fewer number of candidates than many that we have now,” he said.

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