Wednesday, July 13, 2016

For Hoosiers to Buy-in, Bayh Needs to Get to Work...FAST

Governor Evan Bayh celebrates
the largest tax cut in Indiana history.
Only time, a declaration of candidacy and the Indiana Democratic Central Committee are standing in the way of Evan Bayh deciding he wants to get back into the political sphere here in Indiana.

GOP Senate nominee Todd Young and the Republicans have already begun attacking Bayh, who isn't even officially running yet.

Bayh's saber rattling has gotten the GOP's attention, but, among a segment of my Democratic friends, the possible return of one of the party's greatest politicians and most electorally successful campaigners has been greeted tepidly.

For this reason, I don't think Bayh can expect just to waltz back in to Indiana, spend some money on some flashy TV ads and have people anxious about joining his campaign.  

He's actually going to have to work for this one.

Now, please, don't misunderstand me.  Evan Bayh is a Hoosier political legend.  He's undefeated, and he's part of one of the preeminent families in Democratic and Hoosier politics.  Bayh's father, Birch, served as one of the most well-regarded Senators not only in Indiana history but perhaps the history of the U.S. Senate.  

Having a father with that kind of regard sometimes makes it difficult for a son to find his own way, but Evan was an extremely successful Governor who built a record of tax cuts, reform, education gains, and balanced budgets.  He left office in 1997 with money in the bank and an extremely high approval rating.  He took that popularity and turned it in to two terms in the United States Senate.  His record there put him in the middle of the road, and some on the left question Bayh's credentials as a true Democrat as he sometimes came out to the right of Indiana's senior Senator at the time, Republican Richard G. Lugar.

Evan Bayh shocked Hoosiers when he announced he would not seek reelection in 2010 and would retire from the Senate at the end of his term in 2011.  The announcement was timed only days before the deadline to withdraw as a candidate for the primary election.  With no qualified candidate on the ballot, Democrats named Brad Ellsworth to fill the ballot vacancy to take on the Republican winner of the nomination.  That turned out to be Dan Coats, a former U.S. Senator from Indiana who had worked as a lobbyist.  Coats blitzed Ellsworth in November of 2010 in what was a very very bad year to be a Hoosier Democrat.

Here we are six years later.  Coats, of course, announced he would not seek another term in the Senate. 

Evan Bayh, 2016
In those six years since he announced he was leaving the Senate, Evan Bayh has been a Fox News analyst, worked for the United States Chamber of Commerce and has been a lobbyist.  Just last year, he bought a home in Georgetown near Washington, D.C.  He did all this while keeping a loaded campaign war chest.  Still, it seemed like Evan was done in politics as he passed up two chances to run for Governor of Indiana and a chance to run for the same United States Senate seat he retired from...until now.

Suddenly, Hoosiers are just expected to welcome him back like he's here on his horse to save the day?

Evan Bayh will be better for Indiana than Todd Young.  He's not as ideological.  He's more consensus-driven, and he has a wealth of experience that appeals to people on both sides of the aisle.  This is not about that.

Evan Bayh has to make his case now and explain why he's suddenly over the malaise that drove him from politics and into private life.  He has to answer why this was worth Baron Hill moving aside in a race that was slowly turning more purple so that he could try a comeback.

Evan Bayh also has to show that he's moved to the left on LGBTQ+ issues.  He has to reassure Democrats and moderate Republicans as well as independents that he's had time to regain energy and that he won't resign halfway through his term for some other opportunity.

For the first time in a long time, Evan Bayh needs to reintroduce himself to Hoosiers because to some, he's just a name spoken by some political person in the family.  To others, he's a guy who was mad at the Senate when he left it.

At 60, he still has a potentially long future ahead of him in politics, but that ends if he somehow loses this race to Todd Young.  Republicans would finally vanquish Evan Bayh.

To avoid that, he's going to have to work this state like he hasn't since 1988. Time's ticking.

UPDATE:
Evan Bayh has filed the necessary paperwork to enter the Senate race, and he has also scheduled his first TV ad per WTHR.

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