Sunday, August 08, 2010

Delaware U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

Delaware U.S. Senate

August 8, 2010
86 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Likely Republican

The U.S. Senate election in the First State is technically a Special Election, as the winner will complete the final four years of the term that Joe Biden was elected to in 2008, on the same day that he was elected Vice President. This particular race is one of a handful of symbolic Senate contests that would be particularly embarassing for Democrats to lose, and this appears to be the one most likely to see that happen.

Oddly enough, Biden actually took the oath of office early in 2009, for his seventh term in the Senate, but upon his resignation, Delaware's outgoing Democrat Governor selected a former Biden aide in Ted Kaufman. The new Senator would make it clear that he was merely serving as a replacement and had no interest in running for the job in 2010. Democrats and political watchers from across the country expected that the Vice President's son, Beau Biden, the Attorney General of Delaware would enter the race upon returning from military service in Iraq and that a political dynasty would flourish. As Democrats have significant strength in the state, young Biden's election was considered pretty likely, although he was possibly headed for quite a formidable Republican opponent.

Moderate Michael Castle was first elected statewide as Delaware's lone member of the House of Representatives back in 1992, and before that, he had served eight years as Governor, and in other elected offices in the state, having never lost an election since his first run in 1966. Castle had made it clear that he was not interested in another House term, but would either run for the Senate or retire. Many expected he would choose retirement, as Biden was perceived to be a favorite in the race. Nevertheless, some polls last year showed that Castle was comfortably ahead, and he excited Republicans across the country, not so much by his ideology, but by his electability in the state, by entering the race. Ultimately, Beau Biden would disappoint Democrats (and perhaps his father) by deciding to not tangle with Castle but instead seek another term as Attorney General. There is actually a bit of a list of Presidential and Vice Presidential relatives who have made futile runs for the U.S. Senate in the first two years of a Presidential term, and maybe that thought would have crossed Biden's mind.

He also might have been cognizant of the fact that Castle is 71 years old and had survived a minor stroke (as the much younger Beau Biden himself would suffer last year) and that he might be looking at just serving four years in the Senate as a political victory lap, and that in 2014, Biden would be in an almost perfect position to take the seat back. A conservative blogger has recently penned a pretty outlandish conspiracy theory in that Castle will win, switch parties, and then resign from the Senate, so Biden can be appointed. That scenario is pretty hard to fathom, as Castle is now the favorite to take this seat, much to the delight of those rooting for GOP Senate control, it is also true that Democrats are favored to take his House seat, in addition to whether or not they are willing to wait until 2014 to hope to get the seat back.

In the meantime of course, Castle still has to be elected and he is widely expected to defeat his more conservative primary opponent on September 14. Christine O'Donnell is a young conservative activist of some national prominence among political or news junkies who was the little noticed GOP nominee against Joe Biden two years ago. People were a bit surprised when a Rasmussen Reports poll a few weeks back showed O'Donnell two points ahead of the presumptive Democrat nominee, leading some on the right to declare that there would be no ned to have to settle for Castle. However, in the past week, the new version of that poll showed O'Donnell ten points behind the Democrat.

With Beau Biden out of the race, and another promising Democrat running now for Castle's House seat, the Democrat candidate will be Christopher Coons, the Executive of New Castle County. Coons is a credible candidate (try saying that four times fast) and against any other opponent in Delaware might stand a good chance, but Castle's political history, moderation, and voter affection make him a distinct underdog.

The recent polls from Rasmussen show Castle ahead by about 12 points and near the 50 percent mark. The Republican will probably not win the Senate contest by the very large margins he has been elected statewide as a House incumbent, but it would be a very major upset if he does not prevail by at least several points.

Castle campaign link:

2010 U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 2 D, 6 R
Predicted U.S. Senate Balance of Power thus far: 42 D, 29 R