Democrats got a significant boost in their chances of regaining their majority in the Senate after Former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D) announced today that he would be running for his old seat.
Bayh was elected to the Senate in 1998 and re-elected in 2004 before stepping down in the lead up to the 2010 midterms; shocking many Democrats. The seat was ultimately won by Republican Dan Coats, who announced he will not be seeking re-election this year.
The GOP nominated Rep. Todd Young, who currently represents Indiana’s ninth congressional district to run for the open seat; while the Democrats nominated former district nine Rep. Barron Hill, who lost to Young in the 2010 midterm elections.
As a result of Bayh entering the race, Hill will drop out, even though he already won the party’s nomination.
While this is an open Senate seat in a state President Obama narrowly carried in 2008, the odds of flipping the seat were not in the Democrats favor. Indiana has long been a red state and Obama’s 2008 win was clearly an outlier instead of an indication of a leftward trend. Mitt Romney carried the state by 10 percentage points in 2012.
Now that Bayh has decided to run, Democrats have even odds, maybe better, at winning the seat. In addition to being a former two-term Senator, Bayh was a popular two-term governor prior to that and is currently sitting on a $9.2 million war chest.
Some of my friends on the left will not be crazy about Evan Bayh. He represents what is left of the centrist Blue Dog Democrats that made up a sizable part of the party throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. He voted for the Bush tax cuts in 2003, co-sponsored the resolution that gave President Bush the authority to invade Iraq, is not crazy about cap-and-trade, and became a lobbyist immediately after leaving the Senate.
After President Obama took office, Bayh cast votes in favor of the stimulus package in early 2009, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, and was a strong proponent of reforming the filibuster.
Centrist Democrats are not looked upon as kindly as they once were among the party electorate, but there really should not be many complaints about Bayh running for this seat. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times; Democrats need to run candidates like Evan Bayh to have a shot at winning in conservative states like Indiana.
Will he sometimes take positions many Democrats won’t like? Yes. But is it not better to have a Senator who is with you 75% of the time than it is to have one who is with you maybe 5% of the time? It’s a no-brainer.
Democrats need to pick up four seats, assuming Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, to regain control of the chamber. With a Senate map not as friendly as many think, and the fact Democrats chances of picking up the Florida Senate seat took a hit when Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election, having Bayh running in Indiana puts another seat in play and forces the GOP to play defense in a state they shouldn’t really have to.