By Aaron Blake - 01/25/10 04:29 PM EST
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s (D) decision not to run for Senate leaves another strongly Democratic state at risk, just a week after the party lost Ted Kennedy’s seat in deep-blue Massachusetts.
“I have a duty to fulfill as Attorney General, and the immediate need to focus on a case of great consequence,” Biden said in a letter. “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.”
Biden's decision leaves Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) with a relatively clear path to the upper chamber. Appointed Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) has said he will not run for the seat and re-asserted that Monday. But Vice President Joe Biden actively lobbied for him to change his mind during an interview with a Delaware columnist over the weekend.
Another option is former Lt. Gov. John Carney (D), who lost a 2008 primary for governor and is now the odds-on favorite to take Castle’s House seat.
Biden's decision is a big blow to Democrats, as they had said for months they expected him to run. They maintained that posture, even as he hesitated upon a return from a deployment in Iraq in October. Democratic sources acknowledge there isn’t much in the way of a ready alternative.
Republicans seized on the setback Monday.
“As we saw in Massachusetts last week, voters clearly stated that these seats belong to the people – not to either political party or dynasty,” said Colin Reed, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). “Voters want independent-minded leaders who will put their interests first and not simply serve as a rubberstamp for the out-of-control spending and big government agenda that we’ve witnessed in Washington under the Democrats’ control.”
It is the latest bad news for Democrats in a cycle with a growing number retirements and candidates bowing out. Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.) on Sunday became the sixth Democrat this cycle to announce he would be retiring from politics.
Berry, a Blue Dog Democrat, previewed his retirement last week by suggesting that Democratic leaders have been overzealous in their pursuit of legislative initiatives like healthcare. He said at the time that he intended to seek reelection, but on Sunday news broke that he would retire.
Republicans will likely be favored to win Berry’s district, which went 59-38 for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008.
As for Delaware, Castle, a former governor, remains popular in the state, and should be a strong favorite against anyone not named Biden.
Beau Biden, who will turn 41 next week, is likely to be a player when future Senate seats come up, with many seeing him as biding his time. His current prosecution gives him a good reason not to run this year and could provide him a big win that will keep him in the political dialogue in the years to come.
Castle, 70, was uncertain about running for the Senate before jumping into the race at the start of the third quarter last year. He talked openly about the pleasures of retirement, and if he wins, he would be up for reelection in four years.
Vice President Biden was reelected easily in 2008, at the same time that he ran for reelection.