From Joe to Beau?
The Delaware Senate race shaping up for 2010 could have everything: youth versus age, the makings of a new political dynasty, a proud father with a propensity to speak his mind at inconvenient moments -- and, perhaps, a photo finish.
Beau Biden vs. Mike Castle will be one of he great races to watch, and its location not far from the nation’s capital will make it especially attractive to a cash-strapped national media that will find it a convenient story to cover in depth.
Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden made (almost) clear that his son, the state attorney general, was ready to run at a fundraiser for Robin Carnahan, the Democrats’ Senate candidate in Missouri. Biden has been good-spirited over the years in absorbing attacks. "I find it a hell of a lot harder to watch my kid run," Biden told his Missouri audience. Turning to Carnahan's mother, former Sen. Jean Carnahan, he added: "I may need a little bit of advice from you."
George Will was quite right in his Thursday column when he suggested that the 70-year-old Castle is by far the GOP’s best candidate. Indeed, Castle is the only Republican who could possibly beat Biden. Not only has Castle run 12 statewide races; he is also a certifiable moderate, a hard man to turn into Rush Limbaugh. It’s fascinating that while Republicans are putting forward a rather hard right-wing face nationally, they are turning to moderates to win elections. In Illinois, the party has eased the way for Rep. Mark Kirk, another moderate whom right-wingers don’t much like but whom national Republicans see as their only hope for Barack Obama’s old seat.
The betting in Washington right now is that 2010 will be a very good Republican year, since unemployment is expected to stick at rather high levels. That would point to Castle over the 40-year old Biden. But Obama has a lot of time to improve the terrain. On the national front, the Democrats will be better prepared than they were the last time they were swept, in 1994. That Republican landslide came in the wake of Bill Clinton’s failure on health care. Obama will win a health-care bill this time, and the struggle will be settled a year before Election Day. That gives Obama time to change the politics of the economy, and he knows he has to do it. By contrast, the 1994 Democrats were taken by surprise on the economy. The national numbers were improving in the fall of 1994. This gave Democrats a false sense of political security in a country where many in the middle and at the bottom of the economy still hadn’t recovered from the Bush recession. Clinton didn’t get electoral credit for the recovery until 1996.
There’s also this: Bidens have been winning in Delaware since 1972. I have a sneaking suspicion that Delaware voters will not be in a mood to embarrass their favorite son vice president. Beau is an attractive candidate just back from service in Iraq, and he’s fiercely loyal to his father, an attractive trait in a son (especially to other fathers).
One more reason why national attention will turn to Delaware: It will be a laboratory experiment for Republican recovery. Throughout the northeast and mid-Atlantic states, moderate Republicans have fallen in election after election not because voters didn’t like their moderation, but because they saw the Republican Party as hostage to its right wing. Moderate Republicans were bounced out of office by moderate Democrats. Republicans have to break this cycle if they’re ever to win back a Congressional majority. If Castle can’t do it, it’s not clear anybody can.
And the national polls have already begun. A Research 2000 poll for the Daily Kos website conducted from Oct. 10-14 found Castle with 46 percent and Biden with 45 percent. "Well," Kos wrote, "it couldn't be any tighter than that in this marquee matchup." Indeed. I can sense the traffic -- of operatives, journalists and fundraisers -- moving up I-95 already.
| October 16, 2009; 9:22 AM ET
Categories: Dionne | Tags: E.J. Dionne
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