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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.

By E.J. Dionne  | October 16, 2009; 9:22 AM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Comments

I'm rooting against Beau Biden to succeed his father. I really, really despise dynastic succession. It's un-democratic, un-American, and downright wrong.

I don't really care what Beau thinks about or where he stands the issues of the day. We do not have royalty, we do not have an aristocracy. This is America. I reject dynasticism in all its form.

Down with the plutocrats!

Posted by: ZZim | October 16, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

ZZim, Amen to that! Nepotism disgusts me.

I will find it difficult to vote for Andrew Cuomo if he runs for Governor or Senate here in New York, even though I think he's done a great job as Attorney General.

Because this is not Europe, and no American is entitled to an office purely because his or her name is Bush or Clinton or Biden or Cuomo.

Posted by: Itzajob | October 16, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Double Amen to the ZZim and Itzajob posts.
One year ago I listened to a CNNTV newscast and heard that Biden was "saving" his vacated Senate job for his son who was then in Iraq. Playing nepotistic ping-pong with Senate seats demeans the job. Statesmen are what we need in Washington, not someone's heir to the throne. Enough corruption!

Posted by: drzimmern1 | October 16, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

what is with america and its desire to elect the offspring of politicians?

Posted by: jrzshor | October 16, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Please. Vote the for the person whose views you most agree with and who is most competent. Who cares what family someone comes from? You would pick a lesser candidate (in your mind) because of an irrelevant concern about nepotism? No. Stop masking partisan opinions in irrelevant issues.

Posted by: mcarroll2 | October 16, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Did I read that Obama will win on health care? Lets see, Obama's number of people who will be covered by his health care plan has changed from 46 million to "over 30 million" at the speech to congress. Yet despite the fact that the number of people covered by his plan is vague he promises that it won't increase the deficit.

If he doesn't know how many people his plan will cover he can't possibly know how much it will cost and if he doesn't know how much it will cost he can't possibly say it won't increase the deficit.

Obama may win the battle by forcing it through congress but if it turns out to be a disaster he will lose the war.

Posted by: alstl | October 16, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

The people of Delaware have the right to vote for Beau Biden if they want, regardless of his parentage, just like how the people of Kentucky have the right to vote for Rand Paul, despite his father being a Congressman. The word "dynasty" in the United States doesn't mean much, as the people have the right to vote for or against the children of politicians. If he's qualified, vote for him, if not, don't. Doesn't matter who his dad is. And I trust the voters not to vote for someone just because of their name; in MD, they didn't pick Kennedy-Townsend for Governor, and in NY they didn't choose Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Clinton, and the Kennedy name has way more of a dynastic connection than the Biden name.

Posted by: dkp01 | October 16, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Let me see.....Pick a man from Ben Franklin's gene pool, or Bumbling Joe Biden's? All points to Castle, as he has an excellent record and is the most logical of choices. Americans have been led down a very costly path over the last few months, one that was filled with misconceptions and failures and one that will hurt for years to come.

Posted by: inmanorj | October 16, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

"I will find it difficult to vote for Andrew Cuomo if he runs for Governor or Senate here in New York, even though I think he's done a great job as Attorney General."

Somehow I think voting against (or choosing not to vote for) somebody because of their name (especially when you think they've done a great job) is just as bad as talk of dynasties...

Posted by: lightgrw | October 16, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I live in Delaware. Dionne says we would not want to embarrass the VP by not electing his son to "his" seat.
I relish the opportunity to embarrass Biden. After all of his gaffes, I think we owe him some embarrassment.
It is frightening how the political class of this nation (left and right) treat our republic. That Senate seat belongs to the people of Delaware. It does not belong to the Biden family. Seriously. No wonder everyone in Washington is so out of touch with the rest of America. This will shock the WP, but Bethesda isn't like the rest of the world.

Posted by: scottatthebeach | October 16, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

What again? Another Democrat war hero running for office. If you've actually been in battle and seen war, that disqualifies you in the topsy turvy world of Republican ideology. Only Chickenhawks need apply.

I'm sure not one of the dynasty haters voted for Bush.

Posted by: thebobbob | October 16, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Don't vote for or against based on "dynasty" (which really means nothing more than that someone's dad was a politician--these things rarely go beyond one generation). Voting either way based on genetics and an accident of birth is equally bigoted and unfair. Just look at the candidate, including but not limited to the advantages and disadvantages of their lifelong exposure to politics, policy, and the entirety of their state, and the candidate's positions, and vote accordingly.

It's not surprising to me that a significant number, but far from the majority, of politicians' kids become successful political leaders. Movie stars, stage stars, musicians, athletes, coaches, racecar drivers, entrepeneurs, and others also pass along success to their children all the time. The reason is that someone who happens to be naturally talented in one of those fields AND has the entree of a well-known and well-liked parent in that profession, is likelier to choose that line of work and to do well in it.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | October 22, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

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