Posted: July 26, 2004


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Democratic national convention in Boston is supposed to be so scripted, that the surprise is if there is a surprise.

John F. Kerry managed one Sunday on convention eve. The country got surprised when he unexpectedly appeared at the Boston-New York baseball game at Fenway Park so the Massachusetts senator could toss the ceremonial first pitch for the home team.

No doubt Republicans took note when Kerry’s throw sort of waffled up there.

In addition to the country, Delaware got a surprise from the ballpark, too.

The game was broadcast nationwide on ESPN, and at one point the camera panned to Kerry as he sat in the Red Sox owner’s box along with John H. Glenn Jr., the ex-astronaut and Democratic ex-senator from Ohio.

Guess which Delawarean was shown leaning in from the seat behind Kerry for a chummy conversation. Could anybody else have managed it but U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.?

If John R. Edwards is supposed to have Kerry’s back, the way a loyal vice presidential candidate should, Biden just showed he had Kerry’s ear, the way someone who is secretary of state-material should.

Although the Red Sox game with the Yankees was the hottest event in town, Biden managed four tickets for himself, his son Hunter, his sister Valerie and his brother Jimmy. This is clout.

The Bidens were not the only Delaware Democrats at the game. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. also had seats, located above the Green Monster, the famous wall that looms large in left field.

Carney told the Delaware delegation at a breakfast meeting Monday that he was surprised by how thrilled he was to be there. He was not too enamored of the Yankees, and he had not had much use for the Red Sox since his college days at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he had enough of over-the-top Boston fans. When he found himself atop the Green Monster in the midst of Red Sox Nation, though . . .

“I was a Red Sox fan,” Carney said.

Minner liked the game, too, but she liked better making the contacts at Fenway that netted her seven pledges for contributions to her re-election campaign.

“The game was good,” Minner teased the lieutenant governor, “but, John, get your priorities!”

Within the rest of the Delaware delegation, there appears to be only one surprise of consequence still out there. No one – not even Wilmington Councilman “Stormin” Norman M. Oliver himself – knows how he will cast his vote in the presidential roll call.

Oliver was elected as a delegate for Al Sharpton in an otherwise Kerry delegation, and he is waiting for direction. Oliver had a telephone conversation Monday morning with Sharpton and was told to keep chilling.

“He said, ‘Storm, we’re going to meet tomorrow. We’re going to figure it out,’” Oliver said.

At least Oliver’s indecision gives state Treasurer Jack A. Markell something to do. Kerry’s campaign made Markell its Delaware whip, so Oliver gives him someone to birddog.

Never mind that Markell spent the primary season doing everything he could to drum up votes for U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman. This is political amnesia at its finest.

There has been one change in the Delaware delegation. State Sen. Margaret Rose Henry was supposed to be a delegate, but she had business at home she could not reschedule, so her spot was taken by Diane Clarke Streett, the New Castle County register of wills who moved up from alternate.

The convention business, such as it is, begins Monday evening and continues through Thursday evening. The Delawareans are bracing for mammoth traffic tie-ups and security snarls as they make their way to the FleetCenter, so Richard H. Bayard, the Democratic state chairman, took the time to remind the delegation to stay focused on what was at stake.

“I ask everyone to be patient and remember why we’re here. We’re here to elect a president. We’re not worried about our flat feet or whether we’re hot in line,” Bayard said.

The Democrats chose to make their stand in Boston. The Republicans will make theirs next month in New York City. Because of the cultures of the two parties, they could not have made better choices. They fit right in with the baseball that is played where they are.

Democrats love politics, the way the Red Sox Nation loves baseball.

What the Republicans and the Yankees love is winning.