Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Good Bayh and Good Riddance

Bayh’s decision not to run was a real shocker.  He did not even inform the Nevada Leg Hound, Harry Reid, until well after the story had broken.

Dino Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana said Monday that he was fed up with Congress and wouldn't seek re-election this year, the latest in a series of retirements spurred by frustration with dysfunction in Congress.

"To put it in words I think most people can understand, I love working for the people of Indiana. I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives, but I do not love Congress," he said in Indianapolis.

The two-term Democratic senator, 54, offered reasons that are increasingly commonplace among those familiar with the nation's legislature: "There is much too much partisanship and not enough progress; too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving," he said. "Even at a time of enormous national challenge, the people's business is not getting done."

Bayh was comfortably ahead in recent polls; his Republican challengers, former Sen. Dan Coats and former Rep. John Hostettler, trailed by double digits. He won his previous Senate races handily: with 62 percent in 2004 and 64 percent in 1998.

His decision is a fresh blow to his party, which since the start of the year has been shaken by the surprise retirement announcements of veteran Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, the decision of Vice President Joe Biden's son Beau not to seek the Delaware seat his father held for 36 years and Republican Scott Brown's win of the Massachusetts seat that the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy had held for 47 years. Democrats now control 59 of the 100 Senate seats.

Bayh's decision is a surprise, in part because he's been in politics his entire life. He was 6 years old when his father, Birch Bayh, won the first of his three Senate terms from Indiana.

Evan Bayh has been an elected official since he became Indiana's secretary of state in 1986, at age 30. Twice elected governor of Indiana before he went to the U.S. Senate, he was on the short list of possible vice-presidential nominees in 2004 and 2008, and was viewed as a potential White House contender.

Bayh is one of a shrinking group of eight to 10 Democratic centrists who've traditionally worked closely with like-minded Republicans, usually on spending and tax matters… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <McClatchy DC>

When I first heard this, I heard a GOP pundit say Bayh is quitting, because Obama’s partisanship failed to unite the country.  That, of course, was a lie.  The specific example I heard Bay give in his speech later was of eight Senators who had cosponsored a bill creating a bipartisan commission on reducing the deficit, but later voted to kill it with a filibuster.  Bayh did not say so, but it’s public record that all eight are Republicans.  Another favorite line of pundits from both sides is that he was afraid of defeat.  There is no evidence to support this.  He is being accused of screwing his own party by the last minute announcement.  That does not hold water either.

bayh On a conference call with county Democratic Party chairs this afternoon, Sen. Evan Bayh and Indiana Democratic Party Chair Dan Parker declared that not having a Democratic primary to find a replacement for the retiring Bayh would have its upsides, according to a source who was on the call.

Bayh opened the call by repeating the reasons for not seeking reelection he mentioned in his press conference today, the source said. But in a message tailored for his audience of local party officials, Bayh said the timing of his announcement could be a positive for Democrats. The source said that Bayh told the call that the lack of a primary would mean that the Republican party candidates would attack each other on their own, with no Democrats to get in the way. On the Democratic side of the process, according to the source, Bayh said officials would choose a strong nominee from their "deep bench."

"He said, 'if this goes to the state committee then we'll have selected a candidate without a divisive primary,'" the source told me this evening.

With less than a week until the deadline for potential candidates to gather the necessary signatures to get listed on the primary ballot, it's unlikely that there could be a Democratic primary to replace Bayh even if Democrats wanted one. But, according to the source, Bayh and Parker suggested on the call that not having a public vote on who Indiana's next Democratic nominee for Senate will be could be a positive come November… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <TPM>

The late timing also effectively locks Mike Pence out of the race, as he has no time to gather the needed signatures.  Pence would have been a much stronger candidate, but he was afraid to run against Bayh.  I have plenty of problems with Bayh.  He’s a DINO, whose cozying up to Republicans has aided them in their obstructionist tactics.  But I don’t think it right to accuse him falsely.

In my opinion, Bayh quit because of his own political ambition.  I had heard that he was disappointed not to get the Vice presidential nod.  I think he looked at the polls, saw how unpopular Congress is, and rather that be included as a recipient of public anger, decided to play it to his own advantage.  I expect him to run for Governor in Indians, followed by a presidential bid as early as 2016.

In any event, Indiana is not lost, and just maybe we’ll get a Democrat with sufficient integrity not to join GOP filibusters.


the walking man said...

While I don't really care whether any or all of them retire, this as you have it laid out here seems like a political end run as much as the ongoing grid lock in that less than august body called the United States Senate.

The timing coming just right to circumvent a primary and having a candidate chosen from a party effectively closes the mouths and choices of them that support that party.

Have we gotten so low in their opinion that we can no longer use the primary process to choose a candidate?

Even though the National Democratic Primary in the 2008 season was long and brutal I knew who and what I supported by using my own reasoning as more and more exposure was given them who made the increasing brutal cuts.

Lisa G. said...

I think this approach is sound - the Repubs beat themselves up in the primaries and we post a strong Dem to replace Bayh. I didn't like him much either (his father was a much better liberal, from what I hear), but I think you're right on the Governor thing and the 2016 run.

But Indiana is as red as blood; I'm afraid that the teabaggers will get in there and make this worse. This seat has a good chance of going R in the fall and that would certainly not be good.

Jolly Roger said...

I disagree-Evan has been the Governor. His sudden drop-off when all the winds were at his back says there's something stinky as hell going on here.

JUDI M. said...

I agree with JOLLY ROGER: all is not well in Hooterville. Could it have something to do with the government attacking Wellpoint, and an upcoming investigation? Nah, that couldn't be it, just because his wife is on the board of directors and he's voted with HC companies (Repubs) when it was convenient......
Oh, now I hear he's going to be a lobbyist after retiring. Let me guess: Healthcare company??

Tom Harper said...

I agree, good riddance.

I never knew much about Evan Bayh. But in 2005 he set up an e-mail filter that filtered out not just spam, but also online petitions and mass e-mailings from political organizations (i.e. his constituents).

That alone says more about him than a hundred flowery speeches. Buh Bye Bayh.

TomCat said...

Mark I agree and I would have opposed planning it that way for the same reasons you give. I was evaluating the effects of what he did, not the justification.

Lisa, I guess we wait and see.

JR, you may well be right. I based my analysis on the best information I have now. We may learn more information tomorrow.

Judi, if he becomes a lobbyist, that will be a huge embarrassment to the party.

I didn't know that, Tom. Thanks!