Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2012, at 6:42 PM
WILMINGTON, Del. -- The fates conspired to give Mitt Romney a Day of Triumph when both he and I were headed to Delaware. It would have been uncouth to skip his rally at RC Fabricators in downtown Wilmington. The short drive* in from the suburbs took motorists through one of our black neighborhoods; it was easy to find the Romney rally by noticing when the sedans transformed into SUVs.
I arrived 10 minutes before the official start time. Former Rep. Mike Castle was already in his place, seated stage right, chatting with the occasional recognizable friend in the section around the stage where Romney would speak. Fifteen minutes later, the much-more-televised face of Christine O'Donnell zoomed into view. Castle's nemesis walked in to the room, stage left, and found a place on the bleachers behind the stage, where cameras could catch her. All but two of the people in the bleachers were women.
We got off to a pokey start. Jeff Cregg, the avuncular Republican frontrunner for governor (he'd be challenging the highly popular incumbent Democrat Jack Markell), kicked things off, drawing a couple of looks of recognition. "Isn't it a great day to be in Delaware?" he asked. Indeed! He informed us that his third kick-off rally would be happening after Romney was done. He left. The PA kicked back in with country music -- "Life is a Highway," "Born Free," etc.
Romney's entrance was delayed by 15 minutes. He walked out of a back meeting room of the factory, trailed by small business owners, as if they were about to take code-names based on colors and rip off a bank.
"This has been a good day for me!" he said. Rick Santorum was out. "I had the chance to speak with him this morning. We exchanged our thoughts about going forward. He has made an important contribution to the political process... he will continue to have a major role in the Republican party."
From there, it was a quick pivot to the XX issue. The "real war on women" -- he said that twice -- was job loss. "Do you know what percentage of job losses in the Obama years women have been? Ninety-two point three percent! The real war on women has been those job losses."
Romney looked back at the armada of women behind him. "I see one of my supporters over here, Christine O'Donnell! I didn't know you were going to be here."
There was polite-to-modest applause; Castle, who had received no such attaboy, was among those applauding. I was gripped by a flashback. Three weeks ago, in a rather convincing pitch to get reporters to prep for a long primary, Santorum delegate-hunter John Yob suggested that Delaware could be an upset state. "Ask Mike Castle whether a conservative or a moderate won in Delaware recently," said Yob.
In three weeks, O'Donnell had transformed: From a symbol of conservative insurgence into some ready-for-TV proof that Mitt Romney was good for women.
(Photo by me. O'Donnell in the light blue jacket; Castle in the center, sort of, looking forlornly at camera.)
*This is a relative term in my home state.