At age 66 and twelve years after he retired from the Senate, conservative stalwart Dan Coats appears headed toward a political comeback in the form of a challenge to his successor, liberal Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind), in 2010.
With less than two weeks before the Indiana filing deadline February 18th, Coats has yet to formally announce a bid for the seat he held from 1992 until ’98. But Hoosier State sources told me that he is planning a strategy session this week and supporters are busily making plans to collect the required number of signatures to place the former senator on the May primary ballot.
Among those who will be key players in “Team Coats” are Anne Hathaway, onetime chief of staff at the Republican National Committee, and Kevin Kellems, veteran Indiana political consultant and veteran of the staffs of Sen. Dick Lugar (R.-Ind.) and former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Coats’ conservative credentials are gilt-edged. In succeeding his old boss, Dan Quayle, in both the House and the Senate, Coats compiled a solidly conservative record on both cultural and economic issues. As a Member of the Senate Armed Services, U.S. Army veteran Coats won high marks for his strong national security credentials. In 2001, he was reportedly a finalist to be secretary of defense under President-elect George W. Bush.
Sources close to Coats say that the former senator and House member (1980-88) was convinced to attempt a revival of his political career because of the apparent vulnerability of Bayh, long considered Indiana’s most popular politician. In large part because of his vote in favor of the Obama-backed health care plan earlier this year, voter support for Bayh — son of a former senator and himself a two-term former governor — has plummeted, polls show.
A Rasmussen Poll last month showed that Bayh would lose in a head-to-head contest with Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) by a margin of 47% to 44% statewide.
Pence, the third-ranked Member in the House GOP hierarchy, announced he would stay in the House rather than challenge Bayh. Already in the GOP Senate primary are former Rep. (1994-2006) John Hostettler and State Sen. Marlin Stutzman of Michiana, both considered strongly conservative. The same Rasmussen Poll that showed Pence defeating Bayh also showed the senator edging Hostettler by a margin of 44% to 41% and defeating Stutzman by 45% to 34%.
Now Coats is in the race. His supporters admitted to me that the former senator would have some explaining to do above and beyond why he is re-entering politics a dozen years after he declined to run for re-election and face Bayh. After serving as George W. Bush’s ambassador to Germany from 2001-05, Coats joined the Washington DC law firm of King and Spalding, which also does lobbying. In addition, Coats has lived and voted in the DC suburbs until he began gearing up for the Indiana Senate race a few weeks ago.
“And all the criticism you are going to hear from the Democrats about Dan Coats voting in Washington could be applied to Evan Bayh, who grew up and went to school in Washington until he decided to come back to Indiana and run for secretary of state,” one key Coats ally told me, “And Dan will have face the issues of why he stepped down from the Senate in ’98 and just what his law firm worked on.”
Fellow Republican candidates Hostettler and Stutzman are not likely to exit the May primary solely because Coats is jumping in. Hostettler, who was one of 25 House Republicans to oppose the Bush-backed prescription drug package in 2003, has a strong following in his state’s various tea party groups. The 34-year-old Stutzman is considered one of his party’s brightest future prospects.
However, both contenders have their own problems. Hostettler has what one Hoosier GOP operative dubbed “an Iraq problem” — he opposed the US action against Saddam Hussein and has never budged in his criticism of the mission. As much a future star as Stutzman may be, he is little-known beyond his state senate district. And Coats has signaled he will be meeting with the different tea party groups as well.
Former senators have made comebacks after time-outs — Democrat Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and former Republican Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington State come to mind. But Dan Coats would make national headlines and history with a comeback after a dozen years. As to whether he can win, one has to realize that a year ago, the thought of Evan Bayh being on political thin ice was out of the question. Now that is a very clear prospect. This is a Senate race worth watching.
Socialist Salutes Sarah’s Speech
While more than 200 foreign correspondents reported from Tennessee on Sarah Palin’s weekend address to the tea party conclave, one of the fastest and most startling assessments of the Palin address comes from a highly unlikely source — Segolene Royal, 2007 Socialist candidate for President of France.
On Royal’s website “Desirsdavenir “ (Designs for the Future), an article is featured noting that “[c]urrently, Sarah Palin makes a remarkable comeback in the presidential race.
“ In Nashville yesterday, [Palin] has enjoyed considerable success during the "Tea Party Convention.”
And, in a surprising conclusion, the article in Royal’s website likens the Socialist leader herself to Palin.
"In France, Ségolène Royal belongs to this category of candidates,” goes the article, citing Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Palin, “ They are beautiful, modern, [and] emancipated from all former obligations. They are courageous and mostly indestructible.
"They are ‘warriors’. They have integrated all the new communication technologies.”
The article concludes that Royal and Palin both “speak to the eye” and that they embody “the changing face of a very male world of politics.”
As if one doesn’t get the point, the French Socialist’s website features a full-length Youtube of Palin’s Nashville address.
Three years ago, in a race watched throughout the world, Royal lost the presidency of France to center-right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. Since then, she has long attempted to generate support for another run against Sarkozy in 2012, with some criticism from the Socialist grass-roots that she has re-tailored her views. Now Royal is apparently trying something very different — likening herself to Sarah Palin.
Here’s what the website "Future Desires" has to say about Sarah Palin and Segolene Royal.
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter