Evan Bayh Retiring
Mary Beth Schneider for the Indianapolis Star:
Sen. Evan Bayh will not run for re-election, a decision that will shock Democrats and Republicans alike in Indiana.
In prepared remarks, Bayh, 54, cited excessive partisanship that makes progress on public policy difficult to achieve as the motivation for his decision. “After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so in Congress has waned,” he said. “My decision was not motivated by political concern,” he added. “Even in the current challenging environment, I am confident in my prospects for re-election.”
Bayh had never lost an election, from his first win in 1986 as secretary of state, his wins for governor in 1988 and 1992 and his election to the U.S. Senate in 1998 and 2004.
“But running for the sake of winning an election, just to remain in public office, is not good enough,” Bayh said. “And it has never been what motivates me. At this time I simply believe I can best contribute to society in another way: creating jobs by helping grow a business, helping guide an institution of higher learning or helping run a worthy charitable endeavor.”
Only days ago, Bayh’s staff, close associates and Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker, who was manager of Bayh’s re-election campaign, had assured an Indianapolis Star reporter hat he would definitely seek a third term in the U.S. Senate. And Democrats recently released a poll showing Bayh easily ahead of both former Sen. Dan Coats and former U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, two of the four Republicans seeking the GOP nomination.
But in his statement, Bayh cited recent stalemates in Congress. “Two weeks ago, the Senate voted down a bipartisan commission to deal with one of the greatest threats facing our nation: our exploding deficits and debt. The measure would have passed, but seven members who had endorsed the idea instead voted ‘no’ for short-term political reasons,” he said. “Just last week, a major piece of legislation to create jobs — the public’s top priority — fell apart amid complaints from both the left and right. All of this and much more has led me to believe that there are better ways to serve my fellow citizens, my beloved state4 and our nation than continued service in Congress.”
The “in Congress” qualifier is interesting, prompting VodkaPundit Stephen Green to speculate Bayh “might be positioning himself for a primary challenge against President Obama in 2012.” Bayh has some cross-cutting appeal. Kevin McGehee comments at Green’s place, “GOP be warned: I’d rather have Evan Bayh in the White House than Mike Huckabee.” That draws an “Amen” from Green and, frankly, lots of us.
Still, a primary challenge in 2012 strikes me as wildly unlikely unless Obama’s fortunes fall considerably between now and then. There’s precedent, of course: Teddy Kennedy and Pat Buchanan both mounted unsuccessful primary challenges to sitting presidents, both of whom became one-termers. But damaging an incumbent president and increasing the likelihood that the other party takes over tends not to win a man many friends in his own party.
UPDATE: Erick Erickson hears that Bayh is considering a run for governor in 2012. That actually makes much more sense.
Additionally, various sources note that the filing deadline for the Senate race is tomorrow and that today is a Federal holiday. Given the need to collect 5000 signatures, Bayh’s late withdrawal announcement may have frozen the field.
UPDATE II: IndyStar’s Matthew Tully makes an interesting point:
The news makes you wonder whether Rep. Mike Pence and Secretary of State Todd Rokita regret their decisions not to enter the race. Pence in particular would have likely cleared the GOP field — perhaps not officially but for all practical purposes.
This stunner of an announcement removes from the ballot a politician credited by many with the rebirth of the state Democratic Party and a man who came within inches of the vice presidency less than two years ago. He is without question the head of the state Democratic Party. His decision leaves a voice that will impact not just the Senate race, but also many others.
We’ll look more at Bayh’s legacy later. For now, this is about politics. The debate today — from Indiana to Washington –will be over the upcoming Senate race. Republicans in recent days have appeared desperate or energized — depending on your view — with the recruitment of former Sen. Dan Coats. Today, they suddenly appear to be in a position to grab a Senate seat that’s been in Democratic hands since Coats retired 12 years ago.
Coats has an (R) behind his name, which is good, but he’s not obviously much more conservative than Bayh. Certainly, Pence would have been a better choice had Bayh’s retirement been known in enough time.
Oh: And the Democrats are even more screwed. They’re likely to be without a primary candidate at all, meaning someone will be picked in a smoke-filled room later.