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Castle Announces Senate Run, Expects Biden As Foe

In a major recruiting win for the GOP, Delaware Rep. Mike Castle (R) announced today that he will run in a 2010 special election to fill Vice President Joe Biden's unexpired Senate term, with the expectation that his Democratic opponent will be Biden's son, Beau.

"When you deal with any of the Bidens, you're dealing with all the Bidens," Castle said at a press conference outside of the Wilmington train station this afternoon. "My hope is that in Delaware, we can have the kind of campaign that people can be proud of."

Castle said he "doesn't have any illusions that this will be easy street." Indeed, where the race was silent for months, it instantly catapults to one of 2010's marquee races. Castle has a moderate persona and a 20-year record of electoral success in the First State, as lieutenant governor, governor and for the past nine terms an at-large Congressman. He was re-elected in 2008 with 61 percent of the vote, even as Biden won a new Senate term with 65 percent of the vote and Barack Obama carried the state.

He highlighted his "independence" today, saying he believes "in civility and bipartianship." Health care is one issue "that just begs working together," he said. But it's the economy that's the most pressing issue facing the nation. "We need to bring to Washington the same economic skills we brought to Delaware a while ago," he said.

Democratic Senate Campaign Committee chair Bob Menendez last week said he expects Biden, the state attorney general, to be the Democratic candidate. He'd be supported by the DSCC and have the benefits of his father's clout at the White House and in Delaware behind. Biden returned from a deployment in Iraq with the Delaware National Guard late last month; he's not expected to comment himself today.

Castle said he decided just over a week ago to run, after talking with various state party officials, family and friends. He waited until Biden's return from Iraq to make an announcement. It's still the earliest he's ever announced for a campaign, he noted, but said he understands the nature of Senate campaigns today. He acknowledged there will be considerable influence from national campaign committees in the contest, but, "Rest assured I will be at the Apple Scrapple and the Delaware football games to make my case."

Castle, now 70, had announced earlier this year he was unlikely to run for another House term, with his main choice being to run for Senate or retire. Serving at least four years in the Senate could have been an attractive conclusion to his career, even if it's likely to be in the minority party. He suffered strokes in 2006 -- the only election for the House since his first where he was held to less than 60 percent of the vote. But he described those incidents as minor and said he has no health problems.

Jason Miller, a spokesperson for Beau Biden in the attorney general's office, said he was unlikely to speak publicly today. DSCC spokesperson Eric Schultz previewed what will likely be a race of youth versus experience in a statement before Castle's announcement, noting he first ran for office in1967.

"After four decades in politics, it is clear which direction Mike Castle wants to move Delaware and the country," he said. "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."

Castle's campaign quickly launched a Web site and even a Twitter feed. In a statement through his new campaign, Castle said, "It has never been more important for Delaware to have the strongest and most experienced leadership to represent us in Washington. We are best served by an experienced, independent voice and that is why I am announcing my intention to run for the United States Senate."

Officials in Vice President Biden's office had no comment yet on Castle's announcement.