Replacing Biden

REPLACING BIDEN…. Barack Obama formally resigned his Senate seat about a week ago, which made sense given his transition to the White House. Joe Biden, however, decided not to resign at the same time, and it was unclear what was causing the delay.

ABC News’ Rick Klein had a report recently noting that Biden was prepared to formally give up his seat literally the day of his inauguration, after Delaware’s incoming governor, Jack Markell, is sworn in shortly after midnight. This, despite the fact that Delaware’s current governor, Ruth Ann Minner, is a Democrat, who would no doubt pick a Democrat to fill Biden’s seat. Did Biden work out some kind of deal with Merkell? Possibly involving Biden’s son? The situation was starting to look a little sketchy.

With this in mind, yesterday’s announcement about Biden’s replacement seems like the right call.

Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D) announced yesterday that she will appoint Edward E. “Ted” Kaufman, a friend and former aide to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., to fill the Senate seat Biden will vacate until a special election can be held in two years.

Kaufman, the president of Public Strategies, a political and management consulting firm in Wilmington and a lecturer at Duke University’s law school, met Biden in the early 1970s, when Biden was a long-shot Senate candidate and Kaufman was a local party operative. Sources close to Biden said Kaufman will act as a place holder until Biden’s son, Delaware Attorney General Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III, returns from a National Guard tour in Iraq and can run for the remaining four years of his father’s term in a 2010 special election.

“There are no illusions here,” said one individual familiar with the appointment.

Perhaps not, but if one is going to rig the system with nepotism in mind, this is arguably the least offensive way to do it. Joe Biden was, just this month, re-elected to a seventh term. Real nepotism would be handing Biden’s seat over to his son now, but by having a place-holder senator, who understands the chamber and will vote as Biden would have, voters will be able to choose Biden’s replacement at the ballot box in 2010. That’s likely to be Beau Biden, but he would at least have to earn it through public support, rather than inherit the seat directly through gubernatorial appointment.

As for Kaufman, the soon-to-be temporary appointed senator said yesterday he wanted “to make clear that I am very comfortable with retiring after two years.” He added, “I don’t think Delaware’s appointed senator should spend the next two years running for office.”