Update: The Wilmington News Journal has now corrected their story based on a statement from the Vice President. According to Biden, he did not ask the columnist to encourage his son Beau to run; he asked the columnist to encourage senator Ted Kaufman to run - assuming that Beau elected to forego a race.
As Ed notes, if anything, this correction seems to suggest it's more likely that Beau will not run.
For months now, politicos in DC and Delaware have been waiting for confirmation that there would be closely-fought, high-stakes battle for Joe Biden's Senate seat. Congressman Mike Castle was seen as the only Republican with a prayer of taking the seat. The entry of Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden - son of the Vice President - would set up a high-profile battle that the whole nation would watch.
The only problem is that Biden has so far refused to jump in. Delaware Democrats are growing worried, because there's really no 'Plan B' if Beau doesn't run. And based on his father's comments today, it sounds like Delaware Democrats may be out of luck:
Our conversation ended with a surprising request from the vice president as he hurried off to a national security meeting. Spontaneously, he turned to the possible Delaware senatorial campaign of his son Beau.
Biden: "If you run into Beau, talk him into running; he respects you."
Me: "I don't think he wants to run, though."
Biden: "I don't think he does either. I know he doesn't want to. ... I'm so proud of the job he's done [as attorney general]..."
I doubt Beau Biden "respects" me, but it was quite startling to hear the vice president confirm what many Democrats fear -- that Beau does not want to be the candidate.
If Joe Biden were a normal politician - one who put his brain in gear before speaking - he wouldn't share something like this unless Beau were pretty much decided against a run. Since that's not the way Joe Biden works, we have to consider that this may just have been a reckless and unintentional slip. Delaware Democrats will certainly hope so. Otherwise, Mike Castle will have just become a prohibitive favorite to seize a Senate seat that Republicans have not held since 1949.
Update: Nate Silver points out that if Beau Biden doesn't run, the Democrats are basically down to 57 Senate seats before the cycle even starts. (Presumably, he assumes a victory by John Hoeven in North Dakota's open Senate seat.)
When Al Franken was seated as the Democrats' 60th vote in the Senate, who would have thought that people would soon speculate about the chances of the GOP winning the Senate just a year later? The odds are still long - about as long as winning the Senate seats of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Ted Kennedy.