Succeeding Biden

Joe Biden is up for reelection to the Senate this year, putting him in a a similar situation to Joe Lieberman in 2000. Lieberman ran for reelection concurrently with his run for vice president, as Connecticut law allowed that. Delaware law isn’t totally clear on this; there’s simply no law addressing this, but the state elections commissioner made it sound as though she interprets this as not preventing Biden from running for both offices simultaneously.

I highly suspect Biden will thus choose to continue his reelection bid. He’s facing token Republican opposition (Cook rates the race “safe Dem”), so if Obama loses he can count on having his Senate seat, and its 36 years of seniority, to fall back on. But with Lieberman, the temptation to not run for both came not from the Senate race’s difficulty (he won in a walk), but from the fact that the governor of Connecticut was John Rowlands, a Republican who had promised to appoint Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson to the seat should the Gore-Lieberman ticket win. With Biden, this isn’t a problem; the incumbent governor, a Democrat, is retiring this year, and even though the Lieutenant Governor and State Treasurer are in the midst of a lively primary, Cook still rates the race Likely Dem. Even if a Republican wins, Biden could resign during the short window between his Senate inauguration and the Delaware gubernatorial inauguration, allowing Ruth Anne Minner, the incumbent Democrat, to pick his replacement. In short: the seat stays Democratic regardless of whether Biden runs for reelection, but if he runs for both and loses the presidential race he gets to keep his seniority and committee chairmanship. He has nothing to lose by running for the Senate.

So: who will Minner or her successor pick to succeed Biden? The most obvious choice is Biden’s son, State Attorney General Beau Biden. It keeps the seat in the family, and Beau’s young enough (39) to hold the seat for a long time. But Beau is also a National Guardsman, and he’ll be heading out to Iraq on October 3rd, and as the Post‘s Shailagh Murray says, the law isn’t really clear on whether a Senator can be inaugurated in absentia. So if not Beau, then whom? The obvious choice would be the loser of the gubernatorial primary. Both Lieutenant Governor John Carney and State Treasurer Jack Markell are young enough to hold the seat for a while, and Markell in particular seems like he has the potential to be an active, progressive force in the Senate. State Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn is currently running to replace Carney as Lieutenant Governor, and at 42 could serve for a long time to come. To sum up, even if Beau is out of the picture because of his deployment, there are three other Democrats with the proven ability to win statewide who are young enough to keep the seat for a good few decades.

So: Biden can and should run for reelection as well as the vice presidency, and if he and Obama win, there’s a large roster from which to pick a replacement. And on that note, I should get some sleep.

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