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Tilting at Windmills

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February 15, 2010

WHAT BAYH IS THINKING.... Sen. Evan Bayh's (D-Ind.) retirement is a shocker, leading many to wonder what on earth a popular incumbent with plenty of money and a big lead in the polls is thinking. Bayh alluded to his frustrations on the Hill as part of his rationale.

"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 [sic] and our nation than continued service in Congress."

This sounds a bit like Bill Bradley's rationale in 1996 -- politics on Capitol Hill has become ugly and difficult, so I'm walking away.

But it's not exactly a compelling explanation. To hear Evan Bayh tell it, Republicans have made it impossible for Congress to work on issues important to him ... so he's decided to make it easier for the Republican caucus to have more power.

When the going gets tough, the conserva-Dems pack up and go home?

What's more, while I'm hardly familiar with Indiana's election procedures, reliable sources report that the filing deadline for candidates interested in the Senate race is this week, meaning Dems will have to scramble. If these reports are accurate, it would appear Bayh is hurting Democrats twice -- once by walking away when they need his vote, and again by making it extremely difficult for the party to find, recruit, and qualify a top-tier candidate to run in his stead.

For what it's worth, a great deal of the early talk -- and by "early," I mean "the last hour" -- is about the DSCC recruiting Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D), a Blue Dog and former county police sheriff from Indiana's Southwest corner.

Stay tuned.

Update: It appears that the signatures for a prospective candidate are due tomorrow, and it's extremely unlikely any Dem could pull this off in time. What's more likely, then, is that the Indiana Democratic Party will be responsible for selecting a candidate -- there would be no primary.

Steve Benen 11:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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Comments

They would be better off if a Republican won the seat than having another blue dog in the caucus.

Posted by: SW on February 15, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

WTF, Steve? He's thinking: Time to cash in, beatches!

And what SW said.

Posted by: Dems lose huge in 2010 on February 15, 2010 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Bayh couldn't quite bring himself to switch parties, so he is doing the next best thing for the Republicans (in his heart he knows they're right).

Posted by: km on February 15, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

"Time to cash in..." or a skeleton in the closet is banging a gong like Keith Moon.

Posted by: msw on February 15, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Makes me wonder what Obama is thinking..

Ah, outwardly he's probably shrugging it off in that cavalier way he tends to adorn of recent, acting like it's no biggie.

One of the best poker faced President's I've ever seen. Really hard to read.

Posted by: Insanity on February 15, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't be surprised by something like Unity 08 all over again, this time with a real politician, not Bloomberg.

Obama’s real primary opposition is the unemployment figures.

Bayh runs on electability-electability-electability. If that’s all we (the masses, not blog-readers) hear, as per Kerry v. Dean in ‘04—that’s what we’ll think is important.

That and moderation. And bi-partisanship. And moderation. And more bi-partisanship. And deficit reduction. Pete Peterson will think he’s died and gone to heaven.

And bi-partisanship. Expect an early announcement of a non-politican or cross-party VP.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on February 15, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

That’s Evan Bayh for you. Soak up all the campaign donations and then bail three months before the primary with no other Democrats on the ballot.

Selfish to the last.

You missed this little gem: “Bayh’s decision puts Democrats in a bind because it comes just four days before the Feb. 19 candidate filing deadline. A candidate must collect 4,500 signatures of registered voters, including at least 500 in each of the state’s nine congressional districts.”

Posted by: Dems lose huge in 2010 on February 15, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

My first thought when a politician does something really unexpected is "Somebody got to him".

Posted by: VaLiberal on February 15, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

As for the timing, would anyone really be surprised if Bayh planned it that way in order to deprive the Democrats of a good candidate? I'd not be at all surprised if he was still nursing a grudge for not being tapped as Obama's VP (thank heavens he wasn't). From what I've seen of Bayh, his most important constituentcy has always been Evan Bayh.

Good riddance. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Evan.

Posted by: Jennifer on February 15, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Bayh has a more lucrative offer. Probably with a company that he helped out with legislation.

Posted by: Silver Owl on February 15, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

HOw soon before he begins his new career as organ grinder's monkey to the health insurance industry?

His wife is probably putting in a good word for him already.

Posted by: SaintZak on February 15, 2010 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

JUST like bradley in '96. no balls
for a real fight, and expects to be rewarded
for running away.

Posted by: daveminnj on February 15, 2010 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Evan the fox...

Murdoch/Ailes made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

Fox can't continue to grow dramatically without incorporating the enemy. The best way to do that is to bring in Blue Dogs to represent the "other side." Future policy discussions will thus be arguments about the size of tax cuts and the kinds of torture we should be engaging in.

Just another step on the way to the right wing dictatorship that is in your future.

Posted by: koreyel on February 15, 2010 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

This bizarre act of betrayal from Benedict Bayh, and in particular its intentionally cruel timing, is simply retribution from Bayh for Obama not having picked him for Veep.

Posted by: J. Paul Ghetto on February 15, 2010 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Davis X.: love your paranoid predictions. You were so sure of Rudy! and sprayed it everywhere.

Bayh realized he will never be President. That's why he quit.

Posted by: Jack B. Nimble on February 15, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Honestly, I think Bayh grew up with this idea that Senators would be statesman who could sit back and soak up the respect of their constituents and the cash of the well-connected without working very much or making hard, much less painful decisions. He has never stuck his neck out for anything or anyone and doesn't seem to have a single principle in his entire body. If the going gets hard enough, he will get going. It's as simple as that.

Posted by: Barbara on February 15, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Despite all the crowing you see here, make no mistake: this is a disaster for the Democrats. A loss of any seats, even that of a so-called 'unreliable Democrat,' makes it so much harder to get things done. The idea that it would be better to have a Republican serving for the next 6 years than Bayh is foolish.

Posted by: Ed Whitson on February 15, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

The only question I have is, "What's her name and how much did he pay for her?"

Posted by: doubtful on February 15, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

>>>Despite all the crowing you see here, make no mistake: this is a disaster for the Democrats. A loss of any seats, even that of a so-called 'unreliable Democrat,' makes it so much harder to get things done. The idea that it would be better to have a Republican serving for the next 6 years than Bayh is foolish.

You're right.........this is terrible news. Frankly, I am struck with how negative everything is these days. This weekend some director/actor was on a rampage because he got kicked off a Southwest flight for being too fat. In another article, I read that Americans would be too fat to ride the new fast trains in China. And it struck me......why are Americans getting fatter and fatter? Happy people do not get fat, and yet, we have been getting fatter and fatter for decades. Maybe getting fat, Bayh quitting, gridlock in DC, major divisions, etc are all related. Maybe we, as a country and a people, are becoming unmanageable. Maybe its all part of what happens when a civilization is in decline.

Posted by: ted on February 15, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Ed - like they're getting anything done with their 59-seat minority.

When the Republicans re-take the Senate, the dynamic will be pretty much the same as it is now - except it will be clearer to the average moron-American who can't be bothered with learning how legislative processes actually work (or in this case, don't work) who is actually responsible for nothing getting done.

Seriously, I can't be arsed to worry about losing a Democratic majority that backs down from the mere threat of a filibuster rather than demanding said filibuster be carried out. One that knew full well for a full year that it might be their only chance to deliver on the big stuff they promised and allowed things to drag on and on to the extent that most of it isn't going to get done now anyway. At this point, the Senate might as well be Republican.

Posted by: Jennifer on February 15, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Bayh is doing exactly what the RepoTaliban want. He is giveing up becasue they are making him have to work at his job.

Spineless Dims. Everytime someone Obama nominates gives up becasue they are being badgered everytime an incumbant quits becasue they have to run a tough ract the Taliban win.

The leaders of the dim party need to make sure their members feel supported personally and financially.

Those of us in the public who are looking for work, who have not insurance, who have to face name calling and anger whenever we stand up for Obama and the spineless dims deserve better than a party of palinesque quitters.

Posted by: Marnie on February 15, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get it, Jennifer. You not happy with the Democrats in the Senate so you're okay with the Republicans taking control?

Posted by: Ed Whitson on February 15, 2010 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Re: the headline question:

What Bayh is thinking is a) he can make more money as a rightwing lobbyist who puts the smear of "moderate" on issues after a pleasant year or so writing his "Insider's Guide to Betraying Democracy," and b) he can really enjoy, right now, screwing him some "Democrat Party" by quitting the day before petitions are due.

Good riddance: thanks to him (and Lieberman and Nelson and Baucus) we never had a 60-proof majority anyway (so why all the quavering and collapse about Sen. Brown of MA astounds: I guess elected Dems just love to give up and shake in their boots: what wusses). Bayh was untrue to his party and the democratic process, but true to form: leaves a stink.

Posted by: SF on February 15, 2010 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, I can't be arsed to worry about losing a Democratic majority that backs down from the mere threat of a filibuster rather than demanding said filibuster be carried out. -Jennifer

A short list of other things Jennifer can't be 'arsed' to do:

1. Learn about how cloture works.

Posted by: doubtful on February 15, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe he doesn't want to admit that he is afraid to cross the right wing nuts and ashamed to not give strong support to moderate positions, since the right has left the building? He was in a lose/lose situation.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on February 15, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK
Bayh realized he will never be President. That's why he quit.
He can deny Obama a second term. That is why he quit.

He's already a wealthy man. Spite > greed.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on February 15, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

I doubt if many here are happy with the prospect of Republican control of the Senate. But Senators like Evan Bayh shows the limits of staking power on the backs of centrists who will not support the president's agenda if it requires any fight or threat of loss or unpopularity. Doesn't it strike you as odd that he always seems to be looking for a pat on the back, or that he thinks it appropriate, rather than shocking or scandalous, that his wife is on the board of a major corporation?

Posted by: Barbara on February 15, 2010 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Jennifer @ 12:26: "the Senate might as well be Republican"

Between the GOP and the Blue Dogs (or DINOs, take you pick), isn't it already Republican -- except in name?

Posted by: GEM_in_Orange on February 15, 2010 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting how so many commentators have obtained such intimate knowledge of Bayh's motivations. Has anyone actually worked with the guy closely enough that they can make such definitive statements?

I have no sympathy for this feeble-minded centrist, but it seems a wee bit early to be making assumptions about why and when he quit. Let's see some good reporting first.

Posted by: Dr Lemming on February 15, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Marnie - unfortunately, what you said is a systemic problem on the left.

The right has a vast wingnut welfare network. They pay their cadre of young up-and-comers quite handsomely for their souls. On the other side, the left asks its young up-and-comers - really bright and energetic folks who could, with support, change the public dialogue in the way the right succeeded at doing - the left asks them to get by on ramen noodles and bus fare. And so, if the young and energetic on the left want to have homes and families, at some point after a few years they are forced to get "real" jobs working for corporations.

Not that that in any way describes Bayh - he found a way to work for corporations and aspire to public office. He falls into the spineless dims category. But the bench on the left for well-known spokesmen, advocates, and in general do-gooders, is noticeably more shallow in numbers (though not in thought) than the bench on the right. For the simple fact that people have to make a living, and no one's ponying up the cash to help the folks who would be the very best and most committed standard-bearers survive for long-term careers in politics and public policy-shaping.

Posted by: Jennifer on February 15, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Those of us in the public who are looking for work, who have not insurance, who have to face name calling and anger whenever we stand up for Obama and the spineless dims deserve better than a party of palinesque quitters.

No doubt, no doubt. But it's fairly amusing that you whine about being "called names" in a post full of your own...name calling. If you want to "feel personally supported," may I suggest you drop the "Dims" and "RepoTaliban" bit? Most sixth graders have outgrown that shit.

Posted by: Allen on February 15, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

What is this "good reporting" of which you speak, Dr Lemming? Sounds like some quaint artifact of a lone-bygone era.


Can the Villagers even *spell* the words "good reporting*?

Posted by: I Me Mine on February 15, 2010 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get it, Jennifer. You not happy with the Democrats in the Senate so you're okay with the Republicans taking control?

What I said is that the net effect would be status quo - nothing will get done in the Senate, just as nothing can get done now. There are various reasons why nothing can get done now, but chief among them is the Democratic refusal to play hardball with the obstructionist Repubs. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Republican obstructionism isn't a serious impediment to getting things done - but I would go so far as to say it presents a convenient excuse for a pretty large number of Senate Democrats who would prefer that nothing gets done because it keeps their campaign contributors happy for things to stay the same.

I'm beyond the team mentality business. Sure, the Republicans are whiny, lying, petulant pricks. I can't stand them. But Democrats seem to think that they can skate by just by not being the Republicans. And they can't. We need shit to get done, and they aren't doing all they can do to see that it gets done.

Posted by: Jennifer on February 15, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ringing the speculation bell

Interesting how so many commentators have obtained such intimate knowledge of Bayh's motivations. Has anyone actually worked with the guy closely enough that they can make such definitive statements?

Of course not. It is called the art of speculation. You make a prediction and see if the time proves you right. It is actually a lot of fun. You got something against fun buddy? For example, here is my long term prediction for you and your children. Lots of fun. But hey, the future ain't what it used to be...

Posted by: koreyel on February 15, 2010 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on February 15, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

"I can make more money sabotaging reform from the private sector than from the Senate. And I can start by the manner in which I make that transition. Its all good."

Posted by: SW on February 15, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

We can at least agree that mhr is an idiot.

Posted by: SW on February 15, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Well, folks, quitting didn't hurt Sarah Palin much. She's more powerful than ever.

Maybe he's planning on writing an autobiography: "Passing Bayh."

Just wondering, too -- has Evan Bayh never heard of the late-Friday news dump? Now the whole week will be about the Democrats' political collapse.

Posted by: Vail Beach on February 15, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK


It's also possible Bayh used the timing of his announcement to help the Democrats - at least in his mind. First of all, he waited till the best Republican challenger announced that he's running to replace Buyer. After looking around for someone to oppose Bayh, the republicans scraped the bottom of their barrel and found Coats, somebody who hasn't lived in Indiana for 10 years because he's been in Washington lobbying on behalf of Bank of America.

Then, he waits long enough so that the Democrat that's named to succeed him 1) won't have to spend any money on a primary fight and 2) will be hand picked by the party, making it impossible for that person to be a "too liberal" Bloomington democrat that can win the primary but not a general election.

I don't understand why folks think his timing screws his party, if you are of the mind set that the only way a democrat wins in Indiana is if they are a blue dog company man who runs against a very weak republican - well, that's the exact situation Bayh has engineered.

Posted by: Capri on February 15, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

It appears that the signatures for a prospective candidate are due tomorrow, and it's extremely unlikely any Dem could pull this off in time.

Thanks a lot, Bayh, you asshole.

With Democrats like Bayh, who needs Republicans?

Posted by: kc on February 15, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Of course the media is focusing on how the Democratic party is losing members even though the Republicans have lost more. What happened to the truth being the news not hyperbole?

Posted by: maggie on February 15, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

If Bayh were truly a Centrist, this would be a sad thing. In reality, he is a spiteful supporter of the GOP. He has been an incredible embarrassment to himself, Indiana, and the Democratic enablers who allowed him to play "let's pretend." He is a corporate back-pocket moneyed sociopath. His wife is what is wrong with Washington and America. An empty seat would have better served his constituents. Blue Dog is the absolute worst possible affiliation. Blue Dogs mean ineffective government in a time of crisis. They are just shields for corporations. Bayh has much for which he should be ashamed--a pending scandal of any magnitude is possible with a man of so little character.

Posted by: Sparko on February 15, 2010 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Correct me if wrong, but: 51 is still a majority in the Senate and determines which is the the official majority party. That there are "only" 59 (or maybe next year "only" 55 or, hey, 51) does not mean that Republicans again dominate the chamber as the majority. They can, if the filibuster rules remain in place, cripple their government even as they draw their livelihood from its treasury, but there are actual Democrats who will chair committees unless all or almost all Democratic incumbents lose. We must not buy into the Republican meme that we need 60 to do anything. As most here agree, we should use what we've got, which as the President pointed out is a huge majority, to do more and work around obstructionists. Harry Reid: he always seemed, for all his good points, a conservative Dem to me. Also, more of a herder than a leader. if he loses, or even if not, who could be a more forceful Democratic majority leader?

Posted by: SF on February 15, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Bayh's not-exactly-mourned departure from politics, at least in the elected sense of the word, is part of a devilishly clever and Machiavellian scheme devised by the Democrats. The Republicans are to be presented with so many potential pickup opportunities that they will be unable to simultaneously direct massive cashflow and nonstop propaganda to all, and the opportunistic overload will cause their heads to explode, like that guy in "Scanners".

Posted by: Mark on February 15, 2010 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats CAN'T have an operational (meaning 60 votes), liberal (meaning leftist) majority in the Senate. There are about 22 solidly red states and another 6 or 7 leaning red, for a total of 28 or 29. Compare that to a like total of about 19 blue states.

That's about 56 or 58 Senators that, if they're Republicans, can be very conservative, and, if they're Democrats, have to be weary of appearing to far to the left. These 56 or 58 are pulled to the right.

On the other hand, only about 38 Senators are pulled in a similar manner but in the other direction, to the left.

Then there's three states that are perhaps truly centrist. Those three are probably Iowa, Colorado, and New Mexico.

As long as there are 28 or 29 red states, the Senate will always be a major obstacle to the left.

Posted by: martin kroft on February 15, 2010 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

This man reminds me of Richard Shelby who switched parties the morning after the Repubs took the Senate in 1994.

A pompous ass, Bayh has always been, and now a coward who has set up his party for a Senatorial defeat in the fall.

By no logic can it be argued that the timing of his announcement was not intentional.

And now he takes to the airwaves to grind his foot in Obama's face.

Give him six months, and he'll be a lobbyist. The only interesting wager is on which industry he'll represent.

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