Posted: Jan. 25, 2009


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Beau Biden ran for attorney general on a campaign promise to go after child predators.

File this one under be-careful-what-you-wish-for.

Biden has been confronted with the ultimate nightmare of a case -- the prosecution of a Sussex County pediatrician accused of preying on his own patients in conduct so vile that people cannot bring themselves to read about it.

Delaware has not been so fixated on the criminal justice system since the murder trial of Tom Capano and the baby-killing case of Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson simultaneously consumed the state in the late 1990s.

The furor over Baybees Doctor Earl Bradley coincided with an election year, in which Biden's four-year term as the Democratic attorney general was up and he was regarded as the obvious choice to run for the Senate seat left behind by his father-the-vice-president.

Not only was Biden the Democrats' favorite for sentimental reasons, but for political reasons. He easily looked like the strongest candidate against Mike Castle, the Republican congressman riding a 30-year winning streak that also made him the governor and lieutenant governor.

Biden-against-Castle had all the makings of the premier Senate race in the country for 2010, a clash to decide whether the Biden name or a Republican comeback would prevail.

Until Monday. With the mouse click of e-mail sent to political supporters and the press, Biden took himself out of the Senate election and committed to running for re-election.

There was no doubt Biden had his eye on the Senate campaign.  Once Bradley turned into Public Enemy #1 in December, however, it was politically impossible for Biden to talk about the Senate without opening himself to the charge that his priority was not in prosecuting an unspeakable crime but his own political ambition. Then it became impossible to run for it.

"I gave it [the Senate] serious consideration. As the case moved on the last several weeks, it just became clearer and clearer I could not do both. It's a matter of incredible importance to the office and the state, and to mount a campaign for the U.S. Senate, they were incompatible," Biden said.

"I'm going to take very seriously my opportunity to earn another four years in this job."

Back in the days of Gov. Pete du Pont's Republican administration, his aides had an expression -- O.B.E., overtaken by events. It is what just happened to Biden.

Anyway, there is always 2014. Biden and the Senate seat both will be up again.

The Republicans would like to think they had something to do with Biden's decision -- by fielding a strong candidate who could capitalize on the Republican resurgence that just brought the party a new senator from Massachusetts.

"You've got Castle, Massachusetts and Bradley, and you've got three good reasons to wait. With Castle, you've got no reason to run, because Delaware is going to be well-represented in the United States Senate," said Priscilla Rakestraw, the Republican national committeewoman for Delaware.

The Democrats will cope.

"Beau did what he thought was the right thing to do. He was getting support. He could be a great candidate if he ran for the Senate," said John Daniello, the Democratic state chair.

"It's not like we lost him on the ticket."

Biden's decision scrambles state politics. The Democrats need someone to run for the Senate. Ditto for the Republicans for attorney general. It is a sure bet the Republicans will come calling in earnest on Charlie Copeland, the former state senator who ran for lieutenant governor, to urge him to go for the congressional seat against John Carney, the Democratic who was a two-term lieutenant governor.

Biden's decision also says something about him. He walked away from an appointment as attorney general when it was his for the asking. He walked away from a Senate nomination when it was his for the asking. It seems to be getting harder to accuse him of harboring a sense of entitlement.

What a breakneck ride Biden is on. In the last four years, he was elected attorney general, his father became the vice president, he spent a year in Iraq with the Delaware National Guard, he mourned his grandmother's death, and now this.

Maybe he decided he just needs to catch his breath.