Posted: Dec. 8, 2009


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The name of Alan Levin keeps popping up when the talk in Delaware's political circles turns to the election for attorney general.

No, not as a candidate, although a case could be made for him, but as an unforgettable example, as in the question lingering out there about whether Beau Biden could pull an Alan Levin.

Levin, who ran Happy Harry's drugstores after working as Sen. Bill Roth's chief of staff and a deputy attorney general, was a lock to be the Republican candidate for governor in 2008, only to U-turn away from the race that January.

The blindsided Republicans never recovered, although Levin did, turning up in the Democratic administration of Gov. Jack Markell as the essential economic development director. Not since Mickey Mantle has there been such a display of switch hitting.

It is supposed to be manifest destiny for Beau Biden to run for the U.S. Senate seat, given up by his father to be the Democratic vice president.

Just about everything is in place for it. There was the election in 2006 for attorney general, showing he could win statewide. There was the senatorial appointment for Ted Kaufman, the loyal confidant to Joe and Beau Biden, to hold the office intact.

The only wrinkle is Congressman Mike Castle, who inconveniently will not be retiring but giving the Republicans what is regarded as their best chance in the country to crack the 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority of the Senate Democrats.

There is no reason to think Beau Biden will veer from the Senate race in 2010.

Never mind that Charlie Cook, a respected political analyst, sent shivers when he was quoted recently as suggesting Biden would be better off otherwise.

"Why does he want to run the risk of running against somebody who's got experience all over him in a Republican year? Why does he want to do this?" Cook asked.

Biden has said he is "seriously considering" a Senate campaign. Nor have there been any telltale cracks in the what-me-worry demeanor of John Daniello, the Democratic state chair.

"I'm comfortable with any candidate for any office making a decision early next year. The process starts too early," Daniello said.

Biden has steadfastly declined to say when he will make his move. He has time.

He has been back from Iraq with the National Guard only since the end of September, and the holiday season is here. As far as the political considerations go, he has none of the compelling reasons for an early start.

Biden has all the name recognition he needs, and money should be no problem. Not for the son of Joe Biden, sometimes designated as VPOTUS, the Vice President Of The United States, or in fund-raising circles, Very Persuasive On The Usual Suspects.

If time is not of the essence to Beau Biden, it is to the people thinking about running for attorney general. Until he rules out re-election, they are stalled -- not just in the Democratic Party, where there is a subterranean scramble going on, but in the Republican Party, too.

The Republicans cannot wait to bring back Ferris Wharton, the candidate defeated by Biden in 2006. Wharton, an ex-prosecutor who found work as a public defender after losing, still wants the office but not a rematch, so he remains sidelined for now.

The Republicans look at Wharton as a double-barreled campaigner. Not only do they see him as a solid candidate for attorney general, after holding Biden to 53 percent in a Democratic year, they anticipate the barbs he aims at the Attorney General's Office will boomerang into the Senate election against Biden, as well.

The Democrats, being Democrats, have a silent slugfest going on.

There is Carl Danberg, the corrections commissioner who spent a year as attorney general. He was appointed to replace Jane Brady, the Republican attorney general who evaded an election against Biden by slipping into a judgeship.

"I will support Beau Biden in whatever decision he makes, but if he does choose to run for the United States Senate, it would be my intention to run for attorney general," Danberg said.

This is also Chris Coons, the New Castle County executive who is halfway through his second term. He is interested but not talking. Coons brushed aside a question about attorney general so fast, he made Tiger Woods seem positively forthcoming.

"It's a year for everyone to work hard and pull together," Coons said. Period.

No county executive has made it to higher office, so it is not surprising that Coons could be looking for a way out. He would have his problems, though -- not only wanting to exit mid-term but also turning his post over to Paul Clark, a Democrat subjected to endless criticism as the County Council president because his wife is a land-use attorney.

For now, no one is going anywhere. It is all Alice-in-Wonderland stuff with people running as fast as they can to keep in the same place, waiting for Beau Biden to choose the cake saying "eat me" to grow large into a Senate candidate, and not the little bottle saying "drink me" to shrink him into pulling an Alan Levin.

Fantasy has nothing on politics.