On the Map: The Biden Factor
Senator Joe’s shot at the vice president’s office means that the rest of the country, at long last, knows that little Delaware is not a state in New England.
research assistance by Matt Amis, Maria Hess and Drew Ostroski
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Yet Delaware is different than Tennessee, Wyoming and Alaska in one key way: It is geographically small. Being the fifth least populated state, yet the seventh most densely populated, increases anyone’s odds of seeing a key representative in the most mundane of circumstances—Mike Castle enjoying pasta at Attilio’s, Carper jogging along Brandywine Boulevard or Biden attending Mass at St. Ann’s, even if he does have two Secret Service agents near his side.
“In this context, we’re sufficiently small that we all know our politicians,” Hoffecker says. “Because of that, we demand that they be personable, that they respond to us in a personal way. That adds a different dimension to Biden’s candidacy than if he’d come from a bigger state. In New York or California, you won’t see your U.S. senator opening the door for you at Lowe’s. There is a retail politics approach in this state that is very real. It sets a different tone.”
Which may mean that the nation may also learn about The Delaware Way of governance, the collegial tone of things, as well as the practice of reaching across the aisle, of setting aside philosophical and ideological differences in order to do the right thing for the people.
“It’s noteworthy that all the senators who spoke at the Democratic National Convention spoke of McCain as a friend,” Hoffeckers says, and no one more than Biden. Could The Delaware Way be catching on inside the Beltway?
“Joe has been doing that in Washington for years, always working in the best interest of Delaware,” says longtime acquaintance Basil Battaglia, a former chair of the Delaware Republican Party. “A lot of people are committed to their parties. That’s just the way politics plays. But I think Joe understands it’s still a two-party system. I’m still pleased and proud.”
A Delawarean in the White House could mean certain advantages for our state. It may help Carper get the national park he has worked so hard for. It may help attract funding for locally important projects such as such as bridge work, canal dredging, beach replenishment, Amtrak maintenance, our air bases.
“If you look at the Bush-Cheney administration, they’ll direct economic sectors to their home states, and they’re not shy about it,” says Rhett Ruggerio, Democratic national committeeman and superdelegate. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, they say. So if corporations are looking for tax breaks, things like that, they might be directed to Delaware.”
A vice president from Delaware could also boost tourism. It could win a look at what Delaware has accomplished in terms of sales tax, gambling policies and smoking bans. It may mean more Delawareans may be appointed to positions in Region 3 federal agencies. And it could, according to former Governor Russell W. Peterson, help Delaware establish a new industry built around alternative energies.
A Vice President Biden, renowned for his expertise in foreign affairs and strong relationships with state leaders around the world, could attract a different look at Delaware as a place to do business. Last, the mere fact of his vice presidency could, Begleiter says, raise the profile of the University of Delaware.
“There’s been an idea kicking around for a few years about something like a Biden Center of International Studies,” Begleiter says. “The Biden name is as well known as [W.L.] Gore or DuPont.” (Both names are attached to major campus buildings.) “With something like a Biden Center, visiting scholars and government officials may make a stop in Delaware to give a policy speech or do some corporate consultation.”
That may be jumping the gun just a bit. But love him or not, that’s the kind of excitement and pride Biden’s candidacy has aroused. So pardon state archives director Russ McCabe for thinking only one thing could be bigger.
“Imagine a really sunny fall day in Georgetown, the Thursday after an election,” McCabe says. “Vice President Biden appears on stage in front of the beautiful, historic Sussex County Courthouse and introduces his running mate.
“Just the idea that it could happen—that’s died-and-gone-to-heaven material for some of us.”