Posted: Oct. 14, 2004


Dueling polls

As always in Delaware, politics comes down to the governor.

U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. may have a higher national profile, mentioned constantly as he is for secretary of state if Democrat John F. Kerry becomes president. The Democratic primary for New Castle County executive may have been the most talked-about race of this election season with its dire black-hat-white-hat overtones.

Never mind. Winning the governorship is what counts. The office is the essence of prestige, politics and policy, and not having it makes the party out of power feel as though someone just canceled the Fourth of July.

Naturally the governor's race between Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, the first-term Democrat, and William Swain Lee, the Republican ex-judge, is the state's most watched -- and the only one to generate a flurry of polls.

Minner is trying to become the fourth governor in a row to win two terms, the most allowed under the state constitution. Lee is trying to restore the governorship to his party, which has lost it for three elections in a row.

Minner's campaign believes the polls show she will win. Lee's operation believes the polls show his party has every reason to keep hope alive.

Since the end of September, the results of five polls have been released. None of them have provided any underlying documentation for their findings.

Lee's poll has him within striking distance, only six points back, with Minner at 45 percent and Lee at 39 percent. It was conducted Sept. 22-23 by Public Opinion Strategies of northern Virginia.

Minner's poll has her up comfortably by 15 points, leading Lee 51 percent to 36 percent. It was taken Oct. 10-11 by Bennett Petts & Blumenthal of Washington, D.C.

Minner's campaign also released the results of two other Democratic polls. One taken Sept. 23-26 by Global Strategies has Minner at 51 percent and Lee at 34 percent, and another conducted Sept. 29-30 by pollster Karl Agne shows Minner at 55 percent and Lee at 39 percent.

Minner also is ahead in an independent poll commissioned by WHYY-TV 12 and conducted Sept. 22-25 by West Chester University. It has Minner at 42 percent and Lee at 26 percent.

Partisans for both candidates merrily saw what they wanted to see in the polling.

Pollster Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies, which crunched the numbers for Lee, said, "Clearly voters are looking for an alternative to the sitting governor and increasingly like what they see coming out of the Bill Lee campaign."

Gregory B. Patterson, the campaign manager for Minner, had a different take. "This puts the governor in very good shape for the last few weeks as voters look at the real accomplishments and plan Ruth Ann Minner has put forth."

Dispatch from Afghanistan #3

Richard S. Gebelein, the Superior Court judge serving in Afghanistan as a colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, was praying for a peaceful day when the Afghans went to the polls Saturday for their first direct presidential election.

Despite continuing rocket fire, Gebelein largely got his wish. From his e-mail address at, he wrote Tuesday to Delaware Grapevine:

"Last night was another with a few rockets fired at the ISAF [NATO’s International Security Assistance Force] compound. I think there were three, and one unfortunately landed at a traffic intersection and killed a 12-year-old boy. It was about 10:30 p.m., or it likely would have killed and injured many more. ISAF is apparently upset enough this time to put some more patrols on the street.

"On the positive side I do not believe the bad guys have staying power. They are making more and more ordinary Afghans angry. There was a large turnout in the election and only one person killed in an ambush of a cart carrying ballots. There is probably that much violence in Chicago on Election Day. In any event, not knowing what the news media is saying, I wanted you to know I am all right.

"Of course, for the election there were all sorts of news people. It almost seemed like they were let down that there wasn't more violence. As U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad said, the real story was that there wasn't a story. The first elected president was chosen in this country's history, although the votes are still being counted.

"It was a peaceful election and a start for democracy. The ambassador is an impressive Afghan-American who is a hands-on administrator and diplomat."