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GOP Attacks Delaware, Dems Stay Away

February 2, 2000

DOVER, Del. (AP) _ Steve Forbes, who won Delaware’s Republican primary in 1996, begins a bus tour of the state this week. George W. Bush had a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser at the Wilmington home of Charles Cawley, head of the credit card giant MBNA Corp.

With only a few days before Delaware’s Democratic presidential primary Saturday, Bill Bradley has yet to appear. The same goes for Al Gore.

The difference between the Democrats and the Republicans lies in the nature of their primaries.

Saturday’s balloting by the Democrats won’t decide who gets Delaware’s 22 Democratic delegates; regional caucuses on March 27 will do that.

However, next Tuesday’s GOP balloting is binding. The state committee will pledge all 12 delegates to the primary winner on the first ballot cast at the national convention.

``Delaware’s the next primary out of New Hampshire. It’s the third contest in the nation,″ said Allen Raymond, deputy political director for Forbes’ campaign. Forbes won Delaware in 1996 and ``we’re doing it again,″ Raymond said. Forbes begins riding the bus today.

Even so, the question of whether any of the Republican candidates would campaign in Delaware came down to a compromise over timing.

Fearing reprisal from New Hampshire politicians protective of their state’s ``first in the nation″ primary, many candidates promised to avoid Delaware because its primary was too close to Tuesday’s vote in New Hampshire.

After Delaware Republicans settled on a Feb. 8 primary, New Hampshire freed the Republican hopefuls from their ``no campaign″ pledge.

For now, Democrats are casting envious glances at their GOP counterparts.

``If the Gore 2000 campaign were to give us even a wink and a nod, it would be a lot easier to organize a campaign function,″ said Chris Coons, chairman of the unofficial Gore effort in Delaware.

Without any guidance from the national campaigns, Gore and Bradley supporters here also are often without money, buttons or bumper stickers.

Benjamin Matwey, who spent several days ringing doorbells for Bradley in New Hampshire, pocketed extra campaign brochures to bring back to Delaware.

``I earned this,″ he said. ``I froze for 3 1/2 days for those fliers.″