Washington: Michael Castle is a member of an endangered species in the U.S. Congress: He`s a moderate Republican. He`s also a key figure in next year`s election.
Castle is running to fill the Senate seat for Delaware formerly held by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and his likely Democratic foe is Biden`s son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden.
Castle, a member of the House of Representatives since 1993, is seen as among the Republicans` best bets to end the Democrats` 60-vote super-majority in the 100-member Senate.
Sixty votes lets Democrats pass legislation without Republican support in that chamber, including a landmark overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system. "Castle`s Senate race promises to be one of the most watched next year," said Jennifer Duffy of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "The stakes are high on a number of levels."
The contest unfolds as conservative activists take on Republican moderates like Castle, fueling an internal ideological battle that has pushed the party farther to the right and made it tougher to find common ground with Democrats in Congress.
But these conservatives aren`t expected to tangle much, if at all, with Castle in the November 2010 election.
That`s because the popular nine-term lawmaker -- who as tiny Delaware`s only U.S. representative is elected statewide -- and former two-term governor is seen as the only Republican able to beat Biden in the predominately Democratic state.