Monday, February 15, 2010

Evan Bayh's Zell Miller moment?

E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post is lamenting the fact that Evan Bayh's announcement today that he will not run for re-election to the Senate leaves the Democratic party in a bit of a lurch:
There is no way for Democrats to sugarcoat the news of Sen. Evan Bayh's retirement: This is mighty good news for Republicans. Bayh would have been very difficult to defeat, and he has $13 million in the bank. Now, Indiana can be added to the list of seats that could shift to the Republicans, and that list is growing large enough that the GOP is within striking distance of taking over the Senate, an unthinkable idea even a month or so ago.

This view, of course, is based on the current political climate, and the one piece of good news for Democrats is that they are prepared for the difficulty of this November's elections in a way they were not prepared for the rout of 1994. So the ground could shift in the next few months. And as a raft of recent polls have shown, the standing of the Republican Party, though improving in some of the surveys, is still very low.

Nonetheless, the Bayh decision puts Democrats in a difficult spot. And they don't have much time to figure out what to do, since the filing deadline for the race, as the Hotline reports, is this Friday.
Actually the Hotline revised its report.  The deadline is essentially tomorrow:
Sen. Evan Bayh's (D-IN) decision to retire has sent Dems scrambling to figure out who will carry the party's standard -- and how to go about getting that person on the ballot in the first place.

Candidates running for statewide office in IN have to collect 500 signatures from each of the state's 9 districts. Those signatures are due by tomorrow.

Once signatures are in, candidates have until Friday to officially file for office. (emphasis mine)
The Hotline sees Brad Ellsworth as the most likely Dem to step into the void:
Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D) is the early name Dem strategists are throwing around. He easily beat ex-Rep. John Hostettler (R) in '06 to capture a centrist district, and he has cut a moderate swath in his 2 terms in the House.

Still, if Ellsworth runs, that opens up a vulnerable House seat GOPers would make a top target. Bayh's decision could ultimately topple 2 Dem-held seats, making his retirement one of the biggest blows Dems have suffered this year.
Ed Morrissey explains that this late development will likely cause the Democrat candidate for the Senate to be selected through the caucus process:
Steve from No Runny Eggs points out that Democrats can nominate someone through the caucus process if no one signs up to run in time. That’s true in most caucus states. However, that process is almost certain to produce a liberal ideologue — the exact opposite of what Indiana Democrats need for the midterms. They’d better hope they can get Ellsworth qualified in time.
This reminds me of the 2003 defection of Georgia Senator Zell Miller.  That year he announced that he would not seek re-election to the senate, then proceeded to endorse George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election and later deliver a devastating keynote address at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Despite his gracious remarks to the contrary in his speech this afternoon, Senator Bayh has definitely poked a finger in the eyes of Harry Reid, President Obama and the DNC.

Just for fun:

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