WASHINGTON -- Demure Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, but since then has not made many waves. It might, however, be part of a political wave a year from now, thanks to a direct descendent of Benjamin Franklin.
The great man's great-great-great-great-great grandson, Mike Castle, 70, a nine-term Delaware congressman, will be next year's Republican nominee for the Senate seat Joe Biden held for 36 years. This and other candidate-recruitment successes make it reasonable for Republicans to hope that in January 2011 the Senate will contain fewer than 60 Democrats.
Biden's seat is currently occupied by a former Biden staffer who, in service to the ancient notion that public offices should be family patrimonies, will disappear when Biden's son Beau, 40, runs. He is the state's attorney general and has just returned from serving in Iraq with his Army National Guard unit. Delaware has not elected a Republican senator since 1994, but Castle, who has never lost a race, has run statewide 12 times: Once for lieutenant governor, twice for governor and nine times for the state's only congressional seat. In the last four elections he averaged 65 percent of the vote.
In 2010, each party will be defending 19 Senate seats. The high number of 38 reflects the fact that six of today's 100 serving senators were appointed, not elected -- one each from Massachusetts (Ted Kennedy's replacement), New York (Hillary Clinton's replacement), Illinois (Barack Obama's replacement), Colorado (the replacement of Ken Salazar, who became Interior Secretary), Florida (the replacement for Mel Martinez, who quit) and Delaware.
In Colorado, where Democrats have won the last two Senate races, the appointed Democrat, Michael Bennet, faces a primary challenger, Andrew Romanoff, a former speaker of the state House. Annoyed because the governor did not appoint him to replace Salazar, Romanoff spurned the plea of a future Nobel Peace Prize winner that he not challenge Bennet. The Republican nominee might be a former statewide winner -- Jane Norton, who was lieutenant governor.
In Illinois, which has not elected a Republican senator since 1998, the front-runner for the Republican nomination is Mark Kirk, a five-term congressman from the Chicago suburbs, where statewide elections often are decided. He annoyed his party by voting for the cap-and-trade legislation, but has sort of semi-apologized.