According to Chris Cillizza, incumbent Democratic Indiana Senator Evan Bayh will announce his retirement from the Senate. This is a stunning development following on the election of Scott Brown to succeed Edward Kennedy in Massachusetts.
Bayh is a casualty of the Obama administration’s leftward lurch abetted by the Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate. Having passed himself off back home for years as a moderate, Bayh nevertheless went along for the ride as the Democrats voted for the Senate version of Obamacare and busted the budget with the “stimulus” bill principally benefiting public employees.
Recall that a junior congressman by the name of Dan Quayle knocked off the seeming invincible incumbent Indiana Senator Birch Bayh in 1980. In the course of a series of debates, Quayle had effectively exposed Bayh as, well, a liberal. It is no surprise that Evan Bayh can read the writing on the wall. Bayh can at least look forward to being featured in part 23 of Michael Baron’s series on Democrats exiting a sinking ship.
Bayh puts it this way: “After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so by serving in Congress has waned.” The prospect of a competitive election has a peculiarly dulling effect, though Bayh denies that is the case with him.
PAUL adds: Hotline points to a poll by commissioned by the Daily Kos that showed Bayh easily beating both Dan Coats and John Hostettler, his likely rivals had he sought re-election. I wouldn’t put much faith in that poll, though, and it appears that Bayh didn’t either.
Last month, a Rasmussen poll had Bayh ahead of Hostettler by only 44-41. And Bayh trailed Mike Pence, who decided not to run, by 47-44.
It’s not unlikely that, as the campaign unfolded, Coats (a former Senator) or Hostettler would close whatever gap they faced. Bayh has always talked a good centrist game, but when the chips were down, he was a pretty reliable liberal vote. Health care was a good example. Bayh was never one of the votes Republicans were hoping to get or that Democrats felt they had to purchase. In this cycle, there’s good reason to believe that Indiana voters would scruntinize Bayh’s record and that his record wouldn’t hold up in center-right Indiana.
As Hotline points out, the Democrats have a decent bench in Indiana, having recently elected several Congressmen. The leading contenders to replace Bayh on the ballot are Reps. Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth, and Baron Hill, with Ellsworth deemed the most likely by Hotline. But at this juncture, Ellsworth or any of the others must be considered the underdog in the general election.
MORE: Anyone who wants to jump into the race apparently will have to make the decision immediately. The comments on Hotline indicate that to get on the ballot, 500 signatures per congressional district are required by tomorrow.
JOHN adds: I’ve resisted the idea that 2010 could be a blowout along the lines of 1994, but it’s hard not to feel more optimistic as events unfold. Meanwhile, the Associated Press spins Bayh’s retirement in a fashion that deserves a chuckle:
The departure of Bayh, who was on Barack Obama’s short list of vice presidential candidate prospects in 2008, continues a recent exodus from Congress among both Democrats and Republicans, including veteran Democrats Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island.
The announcements have sprung up in rapid-fire fashion amid polls showing a rising anti-incumbent fervor and voter anger over Washington partisanship, high unemployment, federal deficits and lucrative banking industry bonuses.