Monday, February 15, 2010

Let the Bayh Intrigue Begin

The Democratic Party family have displayed all of the five phases of grief today following Evan Bayh's official announcement of resignation, but I'm going to focus on two:


A recurring theme is that the Senator left the party hanging because there is no time to get the necessary signatures to qualify a candidate for the primary ballot. But this doesn't mean the Democrats won't have a candidate. It just means that the state central committee picks that candidate. In that respect, the timing is absolutely beneficial because it ensures there won't be a costly, divisive primary like the one that demolished the party in the 2008 gubernatorial election.

In addition, by waiting until the last minute, Bayh bluffed his strongest opponent, Mike Pence, out of the field. Now Pence won't be able to able to run unless the other GOP contenders step aside for him. Does anybody see that happening?

In short, if Senator Bayh was going to go, he did it in the best way to do it.

People are also angry about the money hole Bayh seemingly put us in. Whoever steps up won't have Bayh's 13 million or six years to raise it, and Bayh can't just hand it over. All Bayh can give his successor is $4,000 ($2,000 for the primary and $2,000 for the general). Bayh can transfer an unlimited amount to the DNC and DSCC, but all they could give back to his successor is $42,600 per election.

This leaves the option of transfers to "other party committees," which can give $5,000 per election. In short, if Evan Bayh is committed to saving his party, expect the most massive cash flush in Indiana history. Senator Bayh can send money to tons of federal candidates and party committees with the hope that all these dollars will find their way back to his successor in a money swap, hopefully, without too much of a "processing fee." In other words, Bayh's successor will be in the millions in short order if Bayh likes him/her.

The second dominant emotion of the day? Disbelief.

Nobody is buying the "excessively partisan" rationale for Bayh's retirement, but this may be because it came out of the blue for most of us, and nobody can figure out what happened in the past twenty-four hours that made D.C. suddenly intolerably partisan. Senator Bayh was in D.C. in 1994 during the "contract on America" and during Clinton's impeachment, and he knew last year how committed the GOP is to demolishing everything Obama. Moreover, if Republicans refused to support a bi-partisan deficit reduction commission they once championed because Obama said yes, this is how you pay them back? By taking away bi-partisanship's best voice in the senate?

But these are all secondary considerations now for a party in search of a candidate. There are a slew of names circulating: Woody Myers, Baron Hill, Jonathan Weinzapfel, Joe Hogsett, Jim Schellinger, Bart Peterson, and Brad Ellsworth, Joe Kernan, and Kathy Davis. For my money, Ellsworth makes the most sense. He has a strong law enforcement background and southern support, which would make him formidable, a la Frank O'Bannon. The problem is that we'd hand over a sure thing in the 8th, so this is a dicey prospect given the House of Representatives might be in jeopardy.

But perhaps the most intriguing question of the day is this: when Evan Bayh said he's "an executive at heart" and gave an extended defense of his life's work, did anyone wonder if he was looking at coming home to be governor in 2012? Why would a man riding off into the sunset feel the need to recount his accomplishments?

It's getting interesting.



Jerame said...

You had me up until you said Ellsworth was the best candidate. Ellsworth, who is to the right of Evan Bayh, is the WORST possible candidate. Sure, he may have the best chance in the southern part of the state and among independents, but he's a total and complete turn off for progressives - particularly those who count LGBT issues among their important concerns.

Ellsworth voted against hate crimes. He opposes ENDA. He is non-committal on Don't Ask Don't Tell. He supports DOMA and has been wishy-washy at best on the need for a state marriage amendment.

He's also pro-life, pro-gun, and I don't recall that he has a terribly good record when it comes to immigration issues either.

If Evan Bayh was a thorn in the side of this president, Brad Ellsworth would be a stave in his heart.

Joe Hogsett has won a statewide race before, he's been out of the game for a while, but he'd be a far more acceptable choice. In fact, I'd say that just about anyone else on the list that's viable would be a better choice than Ellsworth.

Peterson, Hill, Davis, Kernan, even Schellinger would be more palatable.

If Ellsworth gets the nod, there will be no LGBT support and no pro-choice support. I don't think he's in too strongly with labor either, so where is his base? Can you create a base from the milquetoast middle?

Raoul Duke said...

He's running against Dan Coats, in all likelihood. Who's more likely to get the LGBT vote?

Chris Worden said...

Fair comments all, Jerame!

Jerame said...

@b - It's not just the LGBT vote he'd have to worry about. He's pro-life, he's pro-gun, he's weak on labor and weak on immigration. There aren't too many folks to get excited about his candidacy.

It's about who stays home in a mid-term election. If the LGBTs stay home and the women stay home and labor stays home and so forth, who turns out to vote for Brad and the other dems who need that support? This will be the biggest race on the ticket this cycle for most folks. You want someone who's going to draw from the base, because it's the base that turns out during mid-terms.

There's not much of a base left if you turn off the LGBTs, women, labor and progressives.

Anonymous said...

Bayh was just a so so governor. Frank O'Bannon had a lot of Bayh messes to clean up.

Chris Worden said...

Anon 11:23: I loved Frank O'Bannon like my father, but I vehemently disagree. Evan Bayh was a great Governor. If there was a mess, where was it?

Anonymous said...

The infrastructure of the state, the salaries of state employees who went several years without raises, the closing of Central State which put lots of mentally ill people on the streets of Indianapolis, and a grossly overcrowded correctional system are just a few of the Bayh messses. Now you tell me, 3 of Evan's major accomplishments in his 12 years in the senate.