Posted: June 18, 2009


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There were signs Monday about what Mike Castle was doing.

Alas and alack, they were only directional signs, arrows affixed to his familiar, green and blue "Castle for Congress" yard signs. They were placed along roadways to point the route to his 10th annual golf outing and political fund-raiser at Biderman Golf Club in Chateau Country.

People who were there paid good money -- $1,000 an individual, $5,000 a foursome -- without getting so much as a hint from Castle, who is Delaware's leading Republican, about his plans for 2010, when he could run for the Senate or for re-election or retire.

It was more of the same of what he has been giving away for free, which is to say, nothing. In that case, at least people got what they paid for.

Castle played coy better than he played golf.

"The congressman's game was not as good as his wife's, which provided us no clarity, although his golf game shows he's been out politicking, not thinking about retiring," quipped Bob Perkins, who was the chief of staff for Castle after his election as governor in 1984.

Perkins played golf with Jane Castle in one of 17 or 18 foursomes padding Mike Castle's campaign treasury, reported at $840,000 at the end of the first quarter, the most of any statewide officeholder.

Castle suggested in April he would decide on his future in a month or two, but it is not exactly a surprise the forecast is still murky. Castle has been known to approach commitment as though it might have cooties.

He did not marry until his last year as governor in 1992, when he was 52. He had filing papers prepared for both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 1994, when he considered challenging Sen. Bill Roth in a Republican primary, only to go with the default option for re-election just 61 minutes before the deadline.

Inquiring political minds want to know what Castle will do. "It is the question," said Mike Ratchford, who was a secretary of state during Castle's administration.

Whatever Castle does, it will define the next campaign season.

The Republicans need Castle to run for something, anything, or the Democrats could be looking at a dream-come-true election. The Senate seat could devolve like a royal line of succession from Joe Biden to the regency of Ted Kaufman to Beau Biden, and the House seat could go to John Carney, the ex-lieutenant governor.

Although Castle himself has said he is more inclined, if he runs, to go for the Senate than for a 10th term in the House, he is getting the hard sell both ways.

Senate Republicans have been calling. House Republicans recently tried to entice him to stay by offering to make him the ranking minority member on the Education & Labor Committee. He turned it down, although truth be told, it really was not much of an incentive.

Becoming the ranking member is like getting the front seat on the bus while the chair gets the keys to the Bentley.

Castle certainly is not acting as if he expected to retire, even if he is turning 70 in two weeks. Not only is he collecting campaign contributions, but he is exhibiting definite candidate-like behavior, as recently as Saturday.

Castle marched in the Separation Day parade in New Castle, this after a root canal in the morning.

"He's either running for office or trying to squeeze every last second out of his congressional term," joked Tom Ross, the Republican state chair.

From the dentist's chair to a Senate seat? It sounds like the aim of someone still willing to give his eyeteeth for politics.