Elections '72: They Say That He Is Ambitious

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CANDIDATES for the Senate do not come any younger than Joseph R. Biden Jr., 29, the Wilmington trial lawyer who is running a close race against Delaware Republican Senator Caleb Boggs. If he wins, he will become the youngest Senator ever popularly elected and seated with the new Congress. Under the strict interpretation of the Constitution* a Senator must be 30, and Biden would qualify with 44 days to spare.

He would, in all likelihood, also be one of the few Senators ever to jump motorcycles as a hobby. A college football and rugby enthusiast, Biden keeps his athletic trim by skiing and playing an extremely rough brand of touch football. That kind of exuberant roughhousing, coupled with his star-quality good looks, seems to cast Biden, an Irish Catholic, in the Kennedy mold. The Kennedy comparison is encouraged by the intense involvement of his family in the current campaign: Joe's sister is his campaign manager, his brother is his fund-raising director, his mother is his state "coffee coordinator." His wife Neilia, a pretty blonde, keeps her own energetic speaking schedule.

In 1970, Biden ran for the New Castle County Council (which includes Wilmington) and won by a large margin despite the fact that the district was 65% Republican. That feat won him an appointment to a commission charged with rejuvenating the Democratic state party. Biden so charmed the local politicians that they pressed him to run against Republican Governor Russell Peterson in this fall's election. Although Democratic polls showed him ahead of Peterson, Biden held out for the more difficult Senate contest.

So far, he has run a clean, energetic and relatively inexpensive campaign ($90,000). Biden is against the war and highway "overconstruction" and favors strong ecology measures, but opposes the legalization of marijuana. He has attacked Boggs as an ineffective ward politician.

Far from belittling Biden as an insignificant upstart, the opposition seems to hold him in awe, even though Boggs is running ahead. Boggs' campaign staffers charge that Biden is ambitious and wants to use the current Senate campaign as a steppingstone. His more ardent supporters agree. They are already touting Biden as a presidential possibility. He would qualify for the 1976 presidential race—by 61 days.

* That article of the Constitution has been stretched a bit three separate times. When they took office, Henry Clay and Armistead Mason were 29, and John Eaton was 28. Rush Dew Holt was too young by more than five months and was made to wait until he turned 30 in 1935.