Posted: Oct. 1, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

With 18 hours and five minutes to go before the deadline, Mike Castle announced he would not wage a write-in campaign for the Senate. This was uncharacteristic.

Not the decision. It was pure Castle. But not waiting until the 11th hour? Practically unheard of.

If anyone has been the Hamlet of Delaware politics, it was Castle.

This was the guy who had his fellow Republicans in nervous suspense this time last year, as he engaged in to-run-or-not-to-run soul searching that had him pondering not one, not two, but three possibilities -- retirement, re-election for a 10th congressional term or a race for the Senate.

This was also the guy who annoyed his party during the presidential long count between George Bush and Al Gore in 2000 by saying he had not thought through what he would do, if the election somehow was thrown to the House of Representatives to decide. Sure, he was a Republican who backed Bush, but the state went Democratic for Gore.

Not to mention this was the guy who literally waited until a minute shy of the 11th hour before filing his candidacy in 1994. He seriously considered taking on Bill Roth, the Republican senator, in a primary and had two sets of papers prepared, one for the Senate seat and one for the House seat.

An aide finally filed Castle for the House at 10:59 a.m., one hour and one minute before the deadline at noon on July 29, 1994. That was a close call.

The deadline this year for write-in candidates to declare for office was Thursday at 4:30 p.m. When Castle announced his decision the evening beforehand, it was a big clue that this call was never even close.

"I do not believe that seeking office in this manner is in the best interest of all Delawareans," Castle said in a statement released Wednesday at 10:25 p.m.

A senatorial field that once was supposed to be Castle against Beau Biden, the Democratic attorney general going for his father-the-vice-president's old seat, devolved into Christine O'Donnell, the tea party Republican, against Chris Coons, the Democratic executive of New Castle County.

From the showcase race of the 2010 mid-term elections to a job fair for Comedy Central.

Not that Castle did not give a write-in campaign some thought. People spontaneously urged him to do it. His inner circle went so far as to research the law and to consider getting little stickers to give voters on Election Day so they would not need pens or pencils to write his name. There is speculation that a poll was taken, its results closely held.

Someone even suggested a slogan, fit for a bumper sticker: It's no hassle to write in Castle.

Still, there was a lot more that could go wrong with a write-in campaign than right.

Winning? Without even being listed on the ballot? Getting voters to try out a cumbersome procedure? This is a nation of people who cannot bear to change channels without a TV remote.

More likely, Castle would be a spoiler. If O'Donnell won, the Democrats and independents who previously helped him routinely poll 70 percent of the vote would blame him, and if Coons won, the last of the Republicans who liked him would be the ones blaming him.

Forget 30 years in statewide office. Forget the warm association as Pete du Pont's lieutenant governor. Forget the reputation as a governor who cut taxes and balanced the budget. Forget the state record of nine terms as a congressman. Forget the authorship of of stem cell research legislation and the 50 State Quarters program and the voice of reason he was on Capitol Hill.

Mike Castle's legacy would be screwing up an election.

It was not for him, and he walked away. Better than wondering who would play him in the next skit on "Saturday Night Live."