Posted: Dec. 9, 2003
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
Delaware Republicans rolled out their heavy
political artillery on Tuesday as they announced the leadership of
President George W. Bush's re-election campaign here, throwing the
likes of U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, a former FBI director and the
president's first cousin into a mobilization to put the state back
into the Republican column in 2004.
All told, the Republicans blasted out a roll
call of 61 names as the Delaware command council for Bush-Cheney '04
-- a showing that could turn out to be not so much overkill as
necessity in what is promising to be an intense struggle for the
state's meager three electoral votes.
Bush lost here in 2000, outpolled 55 percent
to 42 percent by Al Gore Jr., with the rest of the vote going to
other candidates, and his state campaign was being launched the day
after Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic national chairman, came in to
promise his party was determined to win here again in what he
predicted would be a close election.
Castle, who is chairing the president's
Delaware organization, agreed with McAuliffe's assessment of
Delaware as a battleground state, if not on the desired outcome.
"I do believe it will be a close election in
Delaware," Castle said. "I thought the Gore people ran a pretty good
campaign here, and it was a pretty Democratic year in Delaware. That
happened, and frankly, that makes this a state where we're going to
fight very hard to be competitive."
Still, Castle liked the odds. "It's very
different when you're an incumbent," he said.
On a day Gore delivered his stunning
endorsement of former Vermont Gov. Howard B. Dean for president,
Castle ventured to forecast that Dean would be the president's
Democratic opponent. "The others are just not measuring up," he
Team Bush was presented at the Wyndham Garden
Hotel in Wilmington at a news event. It was billed as a press
conference, but it bore little resemblance to the standard. Instead,
four reporters were outnumbered by 30 or so Republicans who only
took questions informally afterwards.
It was not exactly as choreographed as the
commander-in-chief in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier, but
Castle acknowledged the event did follow a format. In front of a
blue and white Bush-Cheney backdrop, Castle focused on what he
regarded as three of Bush's accomplishments -- security, education
and the economy -- and showcased a speaker on each.
Two of the speakers were the only minorities
among the Delaware Republicans who were there. Marilyn P.
Whittington, an African-American who is the executive director of
the Delaware Humanities Forum, commended Bush for his efforts on
education. Jan C. Ting, a Chinese-American who is a law professor at
Temple University, praised the president for his handling of taxes
and the economy.
"It's important to get a balance of the
community," Castle said.
The third speaker, who discussed security, was
Louis J. Freeh, the former FBI director now with MBNA, where
outgoing president Charles M. Cawley is a "Ranger," someone
collecting at least $200,000 for the president's campaign.
Cawley himself was not listed on the Delaware
leadership roster. Others who were included: Betsy Walker Field, who
is the president's cousin; William Swain Lee, the Republican
gubernatorial candidate; and Tubby Raymond, the retired University
of Delaware football coach, who did not attend.
The news event was the Delaware Republicans'
first major foray into presidential politics, which the state
Democrats largely have had to themselves as they try to sort out
their preferences in a jostling, nine-candidate field. The Democrats
will be going to the polls Feb. 3 for the state's presidential
primary, which the Republicans are skipping because there is no
question about their nominee.
Still, the Republicans showed they intend to
be heard from. Their event seemed to be a political spinoff of
Bush's education bill, "No Child Left Behind." Call it "No State
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