Bayh's Bombshell Stuns Dems

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) stunned Democrats yesterday by his last-minute announcement that he would not seek re-election to the Senate in November.  

Bayh, a former governor, made a statement that indicated he’s fed up with Congress:  “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 state and our nation than continued service in Congress.”

The timing of Bayh’s announcement is causing major heartburn for Democrats.  According to the Federal Elections Commission website the filing deadline to qualify for placement on the ballot in the primary race is today, February 16 at noon.

So the reality is that Bayh dropped out of the race just 24 hours before today’s primary filing deadline.

Candidates must submit petitions containing a minimum 500 signatures in each of the nine congressional districts in Indiana to qualify for placement on the primary ballot.

Tamyra D’Ippolito was the only other Democrat seeking the nomination prior to Bayh’s announcement.  Reports yesterday had Ms. D’Ippolito around 1,000 signatures short of the 4,500 signatures required for ballot qualification.  Should D’Ippolito garner the signatures today, hers would be the only Democrat name on the ballot.  Otherwise the party apparatus would handpick the nominee.  

A flurry of signature drives began yesterday on the web by the far left (D’Ippolito is reportedly a hard-left ideologue) as well as Republicans who’d like to see a contested primary, especially one wherein the handpicked Democrat would be forced to run as a write-in candidate in the party’s primary.  

Those in Indiana who wish to help D’Ippolito gather enough signatures before the noon local deadline today can find the signature petition and instructions here.

If D’Ippolito fails in her newly-energized signature drive, likely one of three House Democrats would be appointed as the Democrat candidate: Rep. Brad Ellsworth, Baron Hill or Joe Donnelly.  National Review’s Jim Geraghty takes a good look at Republican prospects in each of these House districts should the Democrat incumbent disappear from the race.

The Cook Political Report has moved Indiana’s now open seat Senate race to “Leans Republican.”

Bayh, who has never lost an election in his career, was adamant at the presser about his prospects for retaining his seat.  Given the entry of former Senator Dan Coats into the race, Bayh would have been in for the toughest election bid he had ever faced.  Bayh voted in lockstep with Democrats in favor of the massive $1.3 trillion (including debt service) “stimulus” package and for the passage of Obamacare.

Bayh did appear to set himself up for a run for office in the near future — an “executive” office.

“I’m an executive at heart,” Bayh said as the presser.  “I value my independence.  I’m not motivated by strident partisanship or ideology.  These traits may be useful in many walks of life but unfortunately they are not highly valued in Congress.”

Which “executive” office is yet another subject of great speculation.

Indiana’s highly popular Republican Governor Mitch Daniels is barred by term limits from seeking a third consecutive term in 2012 (the key word being “consecutive”).  Bayh, a former two-term governor who left office in 1996, is eligible to run.

Yet some are speculating that the 54-year-old Bayh is setting his sights on the presidency as early as 2012 as a “moderate” primary challenger to Obama.  Bayh already has $13 million in his war chest and can take his time making a decision.  He’s just taken the most pressing step: separating himself from further support of Obama’s far-left agenda.

Bayh also took a couple of not-so-veiled parting shots at Congress saying the institution was in need of “significant reform.”

“For some time I’ve had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should,” Bayh said.  “There’s much too much partisanship and not enough progress; too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem solving.  Even at a time of enormous national challenge, the people’s business is not getting done.”

At any point during the past year’s “partisanship” and “narrow ideology” — in which Bayh’s beloved Democrat Party enjoyed a supermajority of 60 votes in the Senate — he could have stood up and said “No.”  Instead, Bayh said “Yes” to the so-called stimulus and “Yes” to the highly-unpopular Christmas Eve Senate health care boondoggle.  Bayh toed the party line when he thought it was politically advantageous.

Now the looming November elections appear to be separating the sinking ship rats from the lemmings running toward the cliff.