Castle for Senate Coup Puts Democrats on Defensive in Delaware

Republican recruiters continue their 2010 offensive.

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By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Earlier this year, I argued here at U.S. News that candidate recruitment is one area where the GOP has had it all over the Democrats.

For months, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee were winning recruit after recruit while their Democratic counterparts seemingly came away empty.

On the Senate side, John Cornyn's team at the NRSC crowed over key recruits for 2010 campaigns including New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, and former Ohio Congressman, OMB Director, and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman. Indeed, the NRSC's recruiting efforts were so successful they managed to recruit Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning out of the race. Given Bunning's irascible reputation, that was no small feat.

Today's announcement that longtime Delaware At-Large Congressman and former Gov. Mike Castle will run for Joe Biden's Senate seat continues that trend. It's not surprising that as the NRSC's crack press shop touts the announcement, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee both downplays the news and attacks Castle (a mixed message?). That won't wash with the media, however.

A quick scan on Twitter.com shows NBC political director/White House correspondent Chuck Todd, The Hill's Reid Wilson, and Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post all calling the announcement a "coup." In his must-read blog, "The Fix," Cillizza writes, "Castle's candidacy is a major recruiting victory for the National Senatorial Campaign Committee, which had been aggressively courting the Delaware GOPer for months," while citing the Rothenberg Political Report's decision to immediately move the race to "lean takeover."

For months, much of the media has sought to write off the GOP or put the Republicans on the defensive. As President Barack Obama's poll numbers have fallen, the NRSC has created opportunities for itself by putting its head down and doing its job. This doesn't guarantee success; while Castle is popular with Delaware voters for being a thoughtful legislator—and incumbents generally don't give up safe seats for something they'd consider a roll of the dice—this will be a tough race.

For today, though, Delaware becomes another state where the GOP is on offense and Democrats are on defense—something that could have significance not only in Delaware, but in the United States Senate as well.

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