As Castle Decides Against Write-In, Congress Loses Another Moderate Republican

Congressman Mike Castle, it seems, will not be following in the footsteps of Alaska's Lisa Murkowski: the Republican Senate candidate announced Wednesday night that he is, in fact, a former Senate candidate. He will not wage a write-in campaign for Senate after being defeated 53 - 47 percent by out-of-nowhere Tea-Party candidate Christine O'Donnell two weeks ago.

From the Boston Herald:

The decision by Castle, a former two-term governor and the longest serving congressman in state history, marks an end to a political career that spanned more than four decades. Since his primary loss, many of Castle's supporters have urged him to run a write-in campaign for the Senate seat long held by Joe Biden before he became vice president.

"I understand why people care so deeply about this election; I listened closely to many viewpoints and carefully considered the option of staying in the race ... While I would have been honored to represent Delaware in the U.S. Senate, I do not believe that seeking office in this manner is in the best interest of all Delawareans," Castle said in a statement late Wednesday.

Castle's political career, it appears, is over. He held two statewide offices in Delaware--governor, and the state's only House seat--and was considered to be the most popular politician in the state, a shoo-in candidate for Senate, until the Tea Party movement and out-of-state money from the group Tea Party Express catapulted O'Donnell ahead of him.

Castle had built a reputation as a moderate in Congress, particularly in the area of stem cell research. He coauthored the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 with Colorado Democrat Diana DeGette--a bill that set out to codify ethical requirements for stem cell research and would have empowered the secretary of Health and Human Services to direct embryonic stem cell research by the federal government. The bill passed Congress but was vetoed by President Bush.

With the deterioration of Congress's bipartisan functioning over the past few years, it has become increasingly rare that major legislation is co-written by members of the two opposing parties.

The Delaware congressman will be, until he exits the House in January, one of the few true centrist Republicans left in Congress. After Democrats racked up victories in across the country in 2006, many swing districts with moderate preferences are now represented by Democrats. As the Blue Dog coalition of conservative Democrats has added members, the ranks of moderate Republicans have grown thinner. With the Tea Party's ascendance in 2010, it's hard to find a moderate Republican running for the House this year.

Had he entered the Senate, Castle would have joined Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (and perhaps Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown) in the shrinking bastion of Republican moderates who still inhabit the upper chamber.

His exit from Congress will reflect the two dominant trends in American politics: the death of bipartisanship in Washington and the rise of conservative populist outrage.