Republicans got their dream candidate for the open Senate seat in Delaware, as Rep. Mike Castle made it official today:
We need the strongest and the most experienced leadership we can find in this country today. I hope to be able to bring that to the United States Senate.
Castle, a moderate Republican congressman who has been elected statewide 12 times — nine as Delaware's at-large House member (since 1992), twice as governor (1984 & 1988) and once as lt. gov. (1980) — has long been thought to be looking at the Senate. Republicans had tried to push the aging Sen. Bill Roth (R) into voluntary retirement rather than seek a sixth term in 2000 in order to have Castle run. But Roth refused to back off and went on to lose his seat to Democrat Tom Carper.
Since then, Castle had said he would never challenge Carper or the state's senior senator, Joe Biden. But when Biden was elected vice president last year, Castle gave the Senate another look. And today he jumped into the race.
With Biden gone, the Democratic governor named Ted Kaufman, a longtime ally of the VP, to be the Senate placeholder; Kaufman immediately said upon his appointment that he would not run in 2010. No surprise there. Everyone saw the Kaufman appointment as a sure sign that he's holding the seat for Beau Biden, Joe's son, who is the state attorney general. The apparent reason young Biden wasn't picked was that, as a member of the Army National Guard, he was sent to Iraq for a year's tour. He's back now — he returned to Delaware last week — but he has yet to address his plans for 2010.
Believe me, he's running.
Joe Biden won a Delaware-record seven Senate races, and Delaware is pretty much a blue state. But Castle is extremely popular. Even with Joe Biden on the ballot last year as a candidate for both vice president and senator, Castle won a ninth House term with 61 percent of the vote.
Speaking of his House seat, with Castle leaving, the Democrats should win it for the first time since 1990 (when Carper was re-elected). They've recruited former Lt. Gov. John Carney to run; Carney had openly sought the Senate appointment, but had said if he was selected he wouldn't have made way for Beau Biden.
The Wilmington News Journal reports that state Republicans are overjoyed about Castle's candidacy. A Rasmussen Poll testing Castle and Biden in a hypothetical Senate race has the Republican up 47-42 percent.
Sen. John Cornyn (R_TX), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, had this to say about today's news:
Mike Castle's announcement today instantly transforms Delaware into one of the most competitive Senate races in the country in 2010. As an independent and experienced statesman who has earned the respect of Republicans and Democrats alike, Congressman Castle has a proven record of representing the people of Delaware in a bipartisan fashion, and we are thrilled that he has decided to take this next step toward extending his career of public service in the United States Senate. The NRSC will ensure that Mike Castle has all the necessary resources to win this seat next November.
Eric Schultz, the communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, had a slightly different response:
Mike Castle ran his first campaign in 1967. After four decades in politics, it is clear which direction Mike Castle wants to move Delaware and the country. He built-up a record of supporting the George Bush's economic policies, including tax cuts for the super-wealthy, that drove Delaware's economy into a ditch — and now won't support any of the Obama-Biden plans to fix it. This will be a race about who is positioned to lead Delaware into the future, and Democrats fully intend to hold onto the Vice-President's seat.
What I found most intriguing was the measured reaction from Sen. Carper:
I am sure this was a tough decision for Congressman Castle to make. Mike will be a very formidable candidate. However, I am convinced the Democrats will have an equally formidable candidate of our own. This is going to be an exciting Senate race for Delaware, and one for the ages.
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