The Delaware Delegation and the Four Amigos

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 4 2012 8:24 AM

The Delaware Delegation and the Four Amigos

CHARLOTTE -- The various delegations to this convention are meeting in a rainbow coalition of mid-priced hotels. Sheraton Airport! Marriott Executive Park! Sleep Inn! And the Wingate by Wyndham, where Joe Biden's Delaware Democrats are breakfasting in a white tent, about the size you'd get at a wedding for college sweethearts. On the way in, a handy list of corporate sponsors.

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Inside, Sen. Chris Coons -- the man who holds Biden's old seat -- met with delegates and local leaders and readied for a week of media hits. Sean Hannity on Wednesday: "He'll be a worthy opponent." Right before he headed out for another Fox hit, he found the president of Delaware's AFL-CIO, and asked for advice: "They say they want to discuss the 'growing divide between Democrats and labor,' so I'll just stay close to you."

Coons was -- surprise! -- optimistic about how the convention would promote his party. "Bill Clinton will give an argument for the president that will surprise some people," he predicted. "They'll be a fight out in the open over the differences in the platforms." Finally. "All the coverage of Clint Eastwood last week distracted from that platform and from Paul Ryan and his record. That speech was just incredibly disingenous. The president didn't support Simpson-Bowles? Ryan voted against it!" But it was hard to get the media to avoid shiny objects and look back at policy.

That difficulty creeped up again as Sen. Tom Carper -- widely expected to walk to a third term this year -- gave a folksy, detail-oriented speech about how the Democratic delegation and the vice president got things done. "I call us the four amigos," he said. They were implementing "Obamacare. I call it Obamneycare, because it has lot of what Gov. Romney did in Massachusetts, and it worked pretty well there." Then came a list of the ways the bill was helping Delawareans. "Colonoscopies? No copay. Mammograms? No copay. Prostate exams? No copay."

The vice president gave an emotional speech to this delegation four years ago, which was one of the reasons I wanted to come by. We're not likely to get another speech from him this year. Instead, we got an invincible Delaware senator staying completely on message.

"I think it's fair for Republicans to ask the question: Are we better off than we were four years ago?" he said. "We sure as heck are! Four years ago we lost 2.5 million jobs in the last two quarters. We've created more than 4 million jobs in the last 29 months."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.