Tuesday, January 26, 2010

First Baron...Now Bayh? First Polling Close in Indiana Senate Race

Writer Jessica Taylor at Politico is reporting that a Rasmussen Poll of 800 likely voters done last week shows Congressman Mike Pence with a 47 percent to 44 percent lead over Senator Evan Bayh in a head-to-head match-up for the junior senator’s seat here in Indiana. Politico also says that the Rasmussen Poll shows Bayh leading well-known former Rep. John Hostettler by just three points, 44 to 41 percent. The poll results are within the 3.5 percent margin for error, and Rasmussen is known to lean a bit to the right.

This has to be concerning for the former Indiana Secretary of State and Governor turned Senator. First elected in 1998, Bayh has never really been closely challenged for his seat in the United States Senate. Pence and Hostettler seem to be benefitting from a ticked off electorate.

Pence has a tough decision to make. Just what is he running for? Re-election to Congress? Governor? President? This is another potential office he might be campaigning to win. He needs to decide something, and he told Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair John Cornyn that he would make a decision this weekend about a run for Senate. Pence has made no bones about his desire to run potentially for Governor or even for President in 2012. Late last week, political pundits called Pence’s potential run against Bayh a no-lose proposition win or lose.

I tend to disagree. To ensure that Bayh's base stays away, Pence will need to position himself as a more moderate voice or risk drawing Bayh’s most liberal friends back into the fold. Right now, Bayh’s ticked off liberal supporters might just take the election off and be content to throw him to the dogs. If it’s clear that Bayh may lose and be replaced by the ultra-conservative Pence, the liberals might grudgingly support Bayh to prevent a calamity. Bayh is, after all, MOSTLY right on social issues.

A loss in the race by Pence may prop up his chances for a run at Governor in 2012, but it would also cost him a chance to hold on to his leadership posts in the U.S. House. He would lose that seniority and would be out of a job for at least two years. As a major figure in the Republican Party’s leadership in the House, Pence can continue a potential run for President. Pence may also get his crack at the Senate in 2012 if Richard Lugar retires.

It’s an interesting time for Pence. So many ways he can go here.

Hostettler has to be beaming. He can use the poll’s results to raise a little campaign cash (although he is well-known to eschew that practice) and show folks that he’s a serious candidate. I think Indiana voters need to be reminded of why they threw the former 8th District Representative out on his ear in 2006 in favor of the ultra-conservative Blue Dog Democrat Brad Ellsworth. When you dig deep, he has said and done some kind of crazy things.

For Bayh, this poll may make him raise an eyebrow and sit up straight in his chair. There’s still a long way to go for the man-who-would-have-been-Vice President. That seems so far in the distant past now. Bayh can hold up the distinction of being the Democrat that voted against President Barack Obama the most times in this past session of Congress. That might help him in Indiana where Obama has, according to Rasmussen and Politico, a 56 percent disapproval rating. If Obama’s policies catch on, this could hurt Bayh, too.

Bayh also has a huge $12 million treasury to throw at the problem of Pence. I doubt that Pence could amass that kind of campaign war chest and match Bayh dollar for dollar. Of course, money means nothing when the people want to make a change. It just bears note that, by and large, Bayh has yet to pull off the money clip and go at it.

This doesn’t look like your typical election with old Evan Bayh on the ballot. In the interest of full disclosure, Carmel businessman and potential revolutionary (read Abdul Hakim-Shabazz's scary blog post on this guy here) Richard Behney, banker Don Bates, and State Senator Marlin Stutzman are running for the GOP nomination for Senate as well.

A Republican friend of mine who alerted me to the polling had advice for Pence. Remember David McIntosh! McIntosh gave up a fairly safe seat in Congress to take on Frank O'Bannon in the 2000 Gubernatorial Election. He lost big time and was essentially done in politics. Pence has to be saying...can I beat Bayh or am I comfortable where I am now?

Word comes that Mike Pence has removed his name from consideration to concentrate on his re-election campaign in Indiana's 6th Congressional District. Apparently, the Republican must have thought he had too much to lose and heeded the advice of my Republican friend.


Marycatherine Barton said...

Who all is running against Pence, in the 6th?

indyernie said...

Pence would have stomped Bayh...but, it would have been a dumb move. When the GOP takes back the house Nancy will be out and Pence will be in the drivers seat. Happy Days will be here again and President Barry will have his wings clipped.

Jon E. Easter said...

IndyErnie...you found your way over to the left side of the blogosphere. WELCOME!

indyernie said...

I've been reading you for a while. Your blog is well written...but don't take that to mean that I agree with you.