Posted: Oct. 20, 2003
LIEBERMAN COMES CALLING
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
The Lieberman campaign in
Delaware is beginning to look a lot like Carper.
U.S. Sen. Joseph I.
Lieberman, who seems to be trudging, instead of running, for
president these days, is hoping to find traction here by linking
himself to his fellow Democratic senator with a better record than
anybody in connecting with the state's voters.
Lieberman has turned to
Thomas R. Carper, who is unmatched with 11 statewide victories as
treasurer, congressman, governor and senator, to be his Delaware
chairman, and together they set off on a campaign swing Monday to
see whether any of Carper's popularity and experience could rub off
on Lieberman during stops in Wilmington and Dover.
"In Delaware, I just hope
you judge me by the friends that I keep," Lieberman said.
"I think he would make a
wonderful president," Carper said.
"I have always liked Tom
Carper and admired his judgment," Lieberman quipped.
Lieberman needs Delaware.
Despite his stature as his party's 2000 candidate for vice
president, Lieberman found himself described Sunday by George
Stephanopoulos, the political operative-turned-analyst, on ABC's
"This Week" as "stuck in the middle of the pack" of the nine
Democrats who want to take on President George W. Bush and the
Republicans in 2004.
Lieberman revised his
campaign strategy over the weekend, deciding to give up on Iowa's
cumbersome caucuses, which kick off the presidential selection
season on Jan. 19, and concentrate instead on the New Hampshire
primary on Jan. 27 and the seven states, including Delaware, voting
a week later on Feb. 3.
"Delaware is going to be a
very important state for me," Lieberman said. "In the first two
weeks, there are going to be nine states voting, and I don't think
anybody on the Democratic side is going to compete in all nine
states. . . . The important thing is to keep moving forward and win
Lieberman's shift in strategy
was mirrored by retired General Wesley K. Clark, another Democratic
contender. James R. Soles, a political science professor emeritus
from the University of Delaware, believes their thinking could be
"It's a matter of resources. A
caucus requires extraordinary organization. A big primary day coming
up may be a better choice," Soles said. "The people in New Hampshire
and Iowa may hate me for this, but a big primary day may overshadow
them. The number of delegates at stake may be more important."
For now, Lieberman is the only
candidate with even a rudimentary organization in Delaware. In
addition to Carper's backing, he has endorsements from Lt. Gov. John
C. Carney Jr. and Treasurer Jack A. Markell, both of whom
accompanied him Monday along with Carper. Lieberman also has hired
Larry Windley, who was an assistant secretary of state when Carper
was governor, to be his state director.
In addition, Lieberman to date
is the only candidate making multiple trips here -- a strategy that
paid off for Republican Steve Forbes when he won the 1996 primary.
Lieberman has been here three times since the beginning of the 2004
election cycle. The Rev. Albert C. Sharpton is the only other
Democratic candidate to campaign here, although U.S. Sen. John R.
Edwards of North Carolina did have a private fund-raiser in
Carney thinks Lieberman's
efforts will pay off. "You know Delaware politics," he said. "People
want a chance to reach out and touch their elected officials. He's
the kind of politician that will do well here with his personal
Lieberman's travels took him
to a private breakfast with the Black Caucus, a group of the state's
African-American elected officials, and to the Latin American
Community Center in Wilmington, as well as to the Modern Maturity
Center in Dover.
Lieberman saw perhaps 300
voters -- a contrast to a hasty trip he made here before Labor Day
weekend, when he was the first candidate to arrive after U.S. Sen.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced he would not run for president.
Lieberman came in to pick up the endorsements from Carper, Carney
and Markell but saw only a handful of people along the Wilmington
His visit Monday drew a
three-sentence press release from Republican State Chairman Terry A.
Strine: "Joe Lieberman and the Democrat candidates for president are
running on a message of raising taxes like Walter Mondale did in
1984. The economy is rebounding, and imposing a massive tax
increase, especially one that hits small business especially hard,
is exactly the wrong medicine we need. Does Sen. Lieberman believe
that increasing taxes on small businesses will create jobs?"
Lieberman spoke only briefly
at the Latin American Community Center and the Modern Maturity
Center, explaining why he was running for president.
"The promise of America is, no
matter who you are or where you started, you ought to be able to go
as far as your God-given talents. Under George Bush, that promise is
slipping away," he said. "We've got an opportunity to make the
American dream real again, and we're not going to do it without a
change of leadership."
Lieberman, who was the first
Jewish candidate on a national ticket, joked at the Latin American
Community Center about a banner raised for him at another Latino
gathering. "Viva chutzpah!" it said.
He moved easily through a day
care center there, persuading four-year-old Ezequiel to play a drum
for Carper. The boy did not need much persuading. "It sounds like
another day in the Congress," Lieberman said.
At the Modern Maturity Center,
he spoke about his support for a prescription drug program to a
smattering of applause. "That's the promise -- prescription drugs
for the elderly," he said.
While Lieberman looked at ease
campaigning, Delaware voters for the most part seem baffled by this
presidential primary business. Their experience with it has been
limited since Delaware switched from a caucus state to a primary
state in 1996, and it has yet to establish itself.
The first two tries were
shabby affairs, with most candidates avoiding the state because of a
New Hampshire-imposed boycott over scheduling. New Hampshire, which
regards its leadoff primary as a state treasure, wanted all other
states to wait a week after its vote, and Delaware tried to follow
four days later. This year Delaware bowed to reality and gave New
Hampshire its week.
Even this year, Delaware will
not have a full-fledged primary because only the Democrats will be
going to the polls. The Republicans opted out because the
re-nomination of their ticket is a foregone conclusion.
In some cases voters have been
left mystified. "I didn't even know they were coming. Joe Lieberman
is here, right?" one man said at the Modern Maturity Center.
In other cases voters have
been left starry-eyed. A woman at the senior center jumped in
between Carper and Lieberman to have her picture taken.
This novelty for Delaware
clearly was not for Lieberman's campaign aides, who have seen it all
before. One of them could not resist an aside at the sight of the
woman in the middle of the politicians.
"A senator sandwich," the aide
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