Posted: Feb. 10, 2003
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
U.S. Sen. John R. Edwards, a North Carolina
Democrat running for president, will be in Delaware on Tuesday for a
$1,000-a-ticket fund-raiser on the home turf of U.S. Sen. Joseph R.
Biden Jr., the state party's own favorite son if he decides to run.
It is all right, though. Edwards' local hosts
cleared their event with Biden first.
Edwards will be here to hobnob with a crowd
composed largely of his fellow trial lawyers. About 25 people are
expected to attend a dinner reception at the home of Wilmington
lawyer Gary S. Nitsche, who is co-hosting the evening along with
Wilmington lawyer Beverly L. Bove.
It is no surprise that Edwards is mining his
fellow members of the plaintiffs' bar for financial backing. It is a
something of a surprise he would do it here before Biden reveals his
With Biden sending mixed messages about what
he will do, however, so are Delaware Democrats -- as is, in fact,
the senator's own staff.
One lawyer who has a ticket for the dinner said
the event would not be happening unless Biden gave the OK. "You can bet your life on that,"
the lawyer said.
"There are people among us who are Sen. Biden's supporters for sure.
You've got a guy who stood by us for years."
Claire M. DeMatteis, counsel to Biden, said
Edwards is welcome to hold his event -- for now. "Sen. Biden has no
problem with it, but it was made very clear by Delaware trial
lawyers that if Sen. Biden decides to get in the presidential race,
their allegiance is with him -- and their money," she said.
Edwards, a first-term senator elected in 1998,
is one of six Democrats actively seeking the Democratic nomination
in 2004 against Republican President George W. Bush. The others are
Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry, Connecticut Sen. Joseph I.
Lieberman, Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, former Vermont Gov.
Howard Dean and the Rev. Alfred "Al" Sharpton Jr. of New York. Still
others are considering it, including Biden.
Edwards is the second Democratic presidential
candidate to visit Delaware in this election cycle. Lieberman was
the headliner in December for a fund-raiser for Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.
His arrival also had local party members doing a delicate dance
because of Biden.
State Democratic Chairman Richard H. Bayard
said at the time, "As far as the Delaware Democratic Party is
concerned, we're delighted to have someone of Joe Lieberman's
stature. At the same time, we're very proud of Joe Biden."
Biden himself remains evasive, ruling himself
neither out nor in. In two nationally televised appearances
recently, he pronounced himself a firm fence-sitter.
In an appearance in January on MSNBC's
"Hardball," broadcast from the University of Delaware, Biden told
host Chris Matthews he was "considering it" but then called Kerry
"the strongest candidate in the field" and Edwards "the single best
natural candidate ever seen."
Speaking of the Democratic candidates
collectively, Biden said, "My sincere hope is one of these guys
Just this Sunday on ABC's "This Week,"
commentator George Stephanopoulos asked Biden to give a "yes or no"
answer about whether he was considering a presidential bid next
year. Biden paused and then said, "Yes."
Biden also had a brief burst of glory Friday
in a Web site poll on PoliticsNJ.com -- New Jersey's Online
Political Network. The poll asked, "Who is your choice [for]
President in 2004?" and gave 16 options from the incumbent to
As Biden's staff was eager to point out, in
the early afternoon Biden was leading Bush 37 percent to 35 percent,
although by late afternoon, the order had flipped with Bush at 35
percent and Biden at 27 percent. (New York Sen. Hillary Rodham
Clinton was mired at 2 percent.)
By Monday afternoon, Bush had a commanding
lead at 40 percent with Biden the only other candidate in double
digits at 15 percent. (Clinton was up to 5 percent.)
Margaret Aitken, the senator's press
secretary, insisted the results had nothing to do with Delaware
being so close to New Jersey that Biden could be considered a
surrogate favorite son.
"Sharpton's from New York," Aitken said. "So's
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