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Coons Promises Delaware A Clear Choice

New Castle County Executive Chris Coons formally entered the Delaware Senate race yesterday, a quick turnaround for the Democrat since Attorney General Beau Biden surprised many last week with the decision not to seek his father's former seat.

In an interview with RCP Wednesday, Coons said that Biden informed him of his decision just 10 days ago, and immediately urged him to consider running himself. That was followed the next day by a call from Vice President Joe Biden, who told Coons he was confident he could give Rep. Mike Castle (R) a strong challenge.

"There's no question that he will start with the lead in name recognition," Coons said of the state's 9-term Congressman and former governor. "I intend to give the people of Delaware a clear choice between Congressman Castle and his 18 year record of serving in Congress and what I've done to make our local government stronger and our communities safer."

On Tuesday, before Coons had formally entered the race, the elder Biden told MSNBC that he "is going to surprise the devil out of you" as a candidate. Coons chuckled at Biden's enthusiasm, and said it's a sentiment that he shared when they spoke last week.

"You've got this ability to connect with people, I think it's the preacher in you," Coons says Biden told him. "You listen to people, you engage with them and you lift them up. And if you keep doing that and you engage with people and you care about them the way I know you do, I think you'll surprise Congressman Castle."

That process will start later this month when Coons says he'll make a public announcement of his candidacy, and follow it up with a statewide listening tour. He intends to contrast the tough choices he's had to make in local government with the actions of lawmakers like Castle in Washington.

"Unlike the folks in Congress, local government leaders have to balance their budgets every year. We can't just print more money. And that forces a healthy discipline on us," he said.

Continue reading "Coons Promises Delaware A Clear Choice" »

Biden: Don't Write Off My Senate Seat Yet

In an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell this afternoon, Vice President Biden said that Democrats can still hold on to his former Senate seat, even now that his son won't be their candidate.

"We have a first-rate candidate now," Biden said, referring to New Castle County Executive Chris Coons. He noted Democrats' registration advantage in the state, and predicted that Coons "is going to surprise the devil out of you."

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Biden said his son, state Attorney General Beau Biden, decided not to run for the seat around Thanksgiving, but only announced it last month because the party wanted to ensure they had a strong candidate. Concern over the political environment was not a factor, he said.

Though Biden stated that Coons is that candidate, Coons himself has only said so far that he's leaning towards running. A Coons spokesperson has not yet returned request for comment.

A funny moment after the Biden interview: Cook Political Report's Charlie Cook, a guest in the next segment of Mitchell's show, says the VP lobbied him in the hallway to change his publication's ranking of the Senate contest as "Solid Republican."

Beau Biden Won't Run For Senate

(UPDATED with Vice President Biden's statement below.)

So maybe there was some truth to this after all.

In an e-mail to supporters this morning, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden announces that he will run for re-election in 2010, and not seek his father's former Senate seat as had long been expected. From the e-mail:

As many of you know, since returning home from Iraq, I have been giving serious consideration to running for the United States Senate. I have received strong encouragement both here in Delaware and all across the country to undertake this effort - and this outpouring of support has truly been humbling.

I understand why people care so deeply about this election. The challenges we're facing as a country are extraordinarily difficult. The economy. Jobs. Health care. Energy. Education. Climate change. Financial regulation. Foreign policy. These are not only the issues of the moment - they're the issues that will determine our children's future. And as someone who has had the privilege of serving with the bravest men and women on this planet, I care deeply about how we treat our returning veterans and how we resolve our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I feel strongly about these issues. However, my first responsibilities are here in Delaware. I have a duty to fulfill as Attorney General - and the immediate need to focus on a case of great consequence. And that is what I must do. Therefore I cannot and will not run for the United States Senate in 2010. I will run for reelection as Attorney General.

This can only be seen as a major blow to Democrats' chances not just of holding this seat, but holding onto its increasingly precarious majorities in Congress. You can just imagine the conversations Democratic incumbents and potential recruits are having with their staff, and themselves: "Well, if the Vice President's son doesn't want to run, what does that say about the environment?" The symbolism of Democrats potentially losing Vice President Biden's seat, when the seats of President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are also at risk, is also troubling for Democrats.

Biden's decision not to run will have many questioning yet another appointment made in late 2008. Then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D), a close ally of Vice President Biden, chose longtime Biden aide Ted Kaufman to fill the seat with the idea of keeping it warm for Beau Biden, who was en route to Iraq at the time. Former Lt. Gov. John Carney (D) had been lobbying for the appointment, and would have certainly run again in 2010 as the incumbent. Now, Democrats have no clear favorite, while Republicans have a strong candidate in Rep. Mike Castle.

One potential candidate for Democrats is New Castle County Exec. Chris Coons. Carney, who had decided to run for the U.S. House, could still potentially switch races at this point. Calls to aides for Beau Biden and Carney were not immediately returned.

UPDATE: Vice President Biden released this statement about his son's decision:

"I know I sound like the proud father I am, but all of his life, Beau has put duty above any personal ambition, and this decision today is another example of that exceptional character trait. Jill and I are so proud of our son and feel fortunate as Delawareans that he is our Attorney General."

Biden's Office Disputes Report On Son's Campaign

The Wilmington News Journal seemed to have quite a scoop in today's paper: Vice President Biden, unprompted, saying that his son was reluctant to run for the Senate seat he once held. Here's how columnist Harry Themal reported the news:

Our conversation ended with a surprising request from the vice president as he hurried off to a national security meeting. Spontaneously, he turned to the possible Delaware senatorial campaign of his son Beau.

Biden: "If you run into Beau, talk him into running; he respects you."

Me: "I don't think he wants to run, though."

Biden: "I don't think he does either. I know he doesn't want to. ... I'm so proud of the job he's done [as attorney general]."

Me: "Would you campaign for him [against Republican Mike Castle]?"

Biden: "Hell, yes. I told him I'd give him my sixth-born grandchild."

I doubt Beau Biden "respects" me, but it was quite startling to hear the vice president confirm what many Democrats fear -- that Beau does not want to be the candidate.

The appointment of Ted Kaufman in 2008 had seemingly paved the way for the younger Biden, Delaware's attorney general, to run for the seat after a tour in Iraq with the National Guard. But he has made no overt moves since returning last summer, fueling the concerns Themal alludes to.

Here's the catch: a transcript of this exchange as provided by Biden's office seems to make it clear that Biden was not referring to his son at all, but instead Kaufman.

BIDEN TO THEMAL: "Always a pleasure of seeing you buddy. Talk Ted into running, if Beau doesn't. Talk him into running - he respects you. I wish I had the power of appointing Senators. I'd appoint him from Maryland if he wouldn't do Delaware."

THEMAL: "I don't think he wants to run, though."

BIDEN: "No I don't think he does either. I know he doesn't. I'm so proud of the job he's done. God."

THEMAL: "Would you campaign for him?"

BIDEN: "Oh hell yeah, man. I tell you what - I was joking if Beau didn't run - I told him I'd give him my 6th-born grandchild. And you know, he said 'I have enough of those.' Alright, buddy, thanks."

It seems odd that Biden would even make the suggestion about Kaufman running in Beau's place unless he had doubts about his son's intentions. But if he is sincere in saying later he was joking about that scenario, then it would seem we're still on track for a tough race between the son of the VP and Rep. Mike Castle.

The vice president's office says it is seeking a clarification from the News Journal.

DE Sen Poll: Castle Holds Lead Over Biden

A new Public Policy Polling (D) survey in Delaware gives Rep. Mike Castle (R) a 6-point lead over Attorney General Beau Biden (D) in the 2010 special election to fill Vice President Biden's unexpired term. That is only slightly changed from a March survey also showing Castle ahead.

General Election Matchup
Castle 45 (+1 vs. last poll, 3/5-8)
Biden 39 (+3)
Und 16 (-4)

Castle leads by 1.7 in the RCP Average for the race.

Castle has a stronger favorable rating -- 55/28 -- than Biden -- 43/35. Castle, an established moderate Republican who has won a dozen statewide races in Delaware, also has a stronger hold on his own base with 79 percent of the Republican vote, compared to Biden's 65 percent draw among Democrats. Castle leads among independent voters 52-23 percent. Asked about his ideology, 19 percent of Delawareans say Castle is too liberal, 26 percent say he's too conservative, and 55 percent say he's "just right."

"Mike Castle has more appeal to Democrats and independents than any other Republican Senate candidate in the country and that's allowing him to hold the early lead in this race," said PPP's Dean Debnam.

President Obama's approval rating in the state is down to 53 percent, while 41 percent approve. The survey was conducted November 30-December 2 among 571 registered voters, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.1%.

DE Poll: Health Care Vote Hurts Castle?

A new Susquehanna Polling & Research survey gives Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (D) a 5-point lead over Rep. Mike Castle (R) in a hypothetical Senate matchup, news that has to relieve Democrats worried about a dubious trifecta in 2010.

General Election Matchup
Biden (D) 45 (+11 vs. last poll, 4/09)
Castle (R) 40 (-15)
Und 8 (unch)

Castle leads by 2.3 points in the RCP Average of Delaware Senate polling.

In this poll, Castle performs slightly better among Republicans than Biden does among Democrats, and holds a 5-point lead among independents. The problem for the state's lone Congressman and former governor is that there are 106,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the First State.

Susquehanna also attributes Castle's slippage to "negative publicity he received in the state after casting a 'no' vote for President Obama's health care bill in the U.S. Congress." That vote occurred just over 48 hours before the poll went into the field.

This survey of 850 registered voters was conducted November 10-15, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.36 percent.

Storming The Castle In Delaware

The other day, I noted that Republican efforts to win back Senate seats in 2010 are hampered by the fact that there are competitive primaries in almost every key race. The one exception was Delaware, where Rep. Mike Castle (R) is arguably the early favorite to win the seat formerly held by Vice President Biden.

That may have been a bit premature, as it appears now that Christine O'Donnell, the party's nominee in 2008 against Biden, plans to run an aggressive race from the right against the longtime Congressman. This Saturday, O'Donnell will make her first speech of the campaign at a Delaware Tea Party Rally in Dover. From a campaign release:

Christine will join participants to stand in opposition to the Obama-Pelosi liberal agenda that seeks to increase government authority and decrease individual freedom and liberty.

Committed to promoting conservative Reagan principles, Christine will address the rally and express her opposition to a government takeover of health care, wasteful spending, and other anti-free-enterprise efforts by Washington beltway politicians, and why 2010 holds great promise in turning the tide in Congress.

In a separate op-ed in a local paper, O'Donnell suggests the New York-23 race emboldens her effort, taking a shot at the moderate Castle:

Continue reading "Storming The Castle In Delaware" »

As Biden Signals Interest, Poll Shows Delaware Dead Heat

A new poll from Daily Kos of the Delaware Senate landscape shows a tight race in the offing should Attorney General Beau Biden (D), as expected, face Rep. Mike Castle (R).

General Election Matchup
Castle 46
Biden 45
Undecided 9

This is the first poll taken since Castle announced his run. The nine-term Congressman and former Delaware governor leads among independents 48-40, and also has the support of one-in-five Democrats. Biden leads among voters 18-29 (48-42 percent) and 30-44 (47-44 percent), and has a 10-point edge among women.

Biden, son of the vice president, just returned from a year serving in Iraq, and has said he is focused on spending time with his family and resuming work as Attorney General. But this morning, he said he signaled that he was indeed looking to run.

"Am I considering it? Absolutely," he said on Good Morning America. "But I'll be making that decision in due course."

In the event Biden does not run, the poll tested matchups featuring Ted Kaufman, appointed to replace Joe Biden this January; former Lt. Gov. John Carney, who is now running for Castle's seat; and New Castle County Executive Chris Coons:

Castle 49 -- Carney 41 -- Und 10
Castle 51 -- Coons 39 -- Und 10
Castle 51 -- Kaufman 37 -- Und 12

Favorable Ratings
Castle 64 / 30
Biden 65 / 29
Kaufman 36 / 26
Carney 41 / 19
Coons 34 / 8

The survey of 600 likely voters was conducted by Research 2000 from October 12-14, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

Biden: Still Time For Senate Decision

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden released the following statement on Rep. Mike Castle's (R) announcement today:

"Mike Castle is a good and decent man who has served our state well for a long time. Like all Delawareans, I look forward to hearing his ideas on how we should address the difficult issues facing our state and the nation."
Regarding his own decision on whether to run, he says:
"I just got back from a year in Iraq. I'm spending time with my family and I'm getting back to work. There will be time to make a decision."

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.

Continue reading "Castle Announces Senate Run, Expects Biden As Foe" »

DE Sen: Castle Leads Biden

Beau Biden was officially welcomed home after a deployment in Iraq yesterday. As focus now turns to his political future, a Rasmussen survey shows that the Delaware attorney general can't count on an easy road to the U.S. Senate seat that his father once held.

General Election Matchup
Castle (R) 47
Biden (D) 42
Not Sure 6

At-large Rep. Mike Castle, the state's former governor, has held his cards close to the vest as Republicans encourage him to announce his plans for the future soon. CongressDaily's Erin McPike reported that Castle recently told potential donors to hold on to their money because he did not want to have to refund contributions should he decide to retire.

Should Castle not run, Biden should have a much easier road. He leads Christine O'Donnell, the Republican nominee in 2008 against then-Sen. Joe Biden, 49-40.

Favorable Ratings
Biden 60 / 32
Castle 61 / 34
O'Donnell 46 / 36

Biden Son Returns After Iraq Deployment

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, considered a likely candidate to run for his father's old Senate seat in 2010, returned after a nearly year-long deployment in Iraq this weekend. He and other members of the Delaware National Guard's 261st Tactical Signal Brigade are currently participating in demobilization at Fort Dix in New Jersey, with a return ceremony set for this Wednesday at the state capital in Dover.

Vice President Joe Biden will speak at the event this week, marking the first time a sitting vice president has done so in the state. But it's hardly new for Biden, who served as Delaware's senator for 36-plus years.

"When Biden was a senator, he never missed one of these," said Lt. Col. Len Grattieri, public information officer for the Delaware National Guard. Even in the midst of the campaign last fall, Biden flew to Delaware directly after the vice presidential debate to attend his son's deployment event.

"It's given a national awareness of the unit," Grattieri said. "He's a soldier like any of the other 109 in the 261st. But on the other hand he is the Vice President's son, he's the attorney general. So it's a special circumstance, and I think he did a great job of balancing the two."

All three members of the Delaware Congressional delegation typically attend the event. Rep. Mike Castle (R), who is considering the Senate race as well, was invited, but his office says he may not be able to attend because of schedule votes in the House this week. When Biden deployed last fall, Castle's chief of staff represented him there.

Continue reading "Biden Son Returns After Iraq Deployment" »