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Hoosier daddy

Spooked by Hillary? Evan Bayh could be your man in 2008
By ADAM REILLY  |  March 31, 2006

INDIANAN JONESIN': Evan BayhYou already know the plot for the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. According to the conventional wisdom — which, at this point, virtually every pundit and political operative in America seems to buy — it’s going to be a two-person race, with Hillary Clinton squaring off against a candidate to Be Determined. If the Democratic faithful decide, at the last minute, that nominating Clinton would be a fool’s errand, they’ll go running to the Candidate TBD. Otherwise, the general election is Hillary’s to lose.

Earlier this month, the New York Times Magazine anointed former Virginia governor Mark Warner as the candidate best positioned to play the role of the anti-Hillary. But Evan Bayh, the US senator from Indiana, may be an even better bet.

Like Warner, Bayh is a Democrat who has thrived in a heavily Republican state — an attractive quality, given the Democrats’ pressing need to transcend the Red State–Blue State divide. (In 2004, John Kerry won just 19 states, and it’s been widely noted that 97 of the fastest-growing counties in the US voted for Bush.) But unlike Warner, who won his first and only election in 2000, Bayh can boast several statewide victories: he was elected secretary of state once, governor twice, and senator twice as well, most recently in 2004. In the last election, Bayh invariably tells audiences, he carried Indiana by 24 percentage points — thereby outperforming George W. Bush, who had a 21 percent margin of victory that same year. Granted, Bayh’s lineage may have helped: his father, Birch Bayh, was a long-time US senator from Indiana who ran for president in 1976. But it’s still an impressive track record.

Bayh has other strengths as well. With the Democratic Party desperate to build its credibility on national security — witness the rush to condemn the Dubai ports deal a few weeks back — his experience on the Senate’s intelligence and armed-services committees could be invaluable in a general-election campaign. So, too, could his economic bona fides: as governor of Indiana, Bayh amassed a record of job growth and balanced budgets — without raising taxes! — that Independents and even some Republicans might find appealing. Finally, it must be said that Bayh is a good-looking dude — as the Times’ Matt Bai astutely noted, he’s the spitting image of actor Kevin Kline — and a little aesthetic appeal never hurts in politics.

In sum, Bayh may be just the candidate to help the Democrats retake the presidency two years from now. Before that can happen, however, he’ll need to sell himself to Democratic activists whose early votes in Iowa and New Hampshire will winnow down the field early in 2006. And at this point, whether these voters will dig Bayh’s message of bipartisan conciliation is an open question.

His Standard Stump
As Bayh travels around the country, making his case to the aforementioned Democratic stalwarts, he hits the same points in stump speech after stump speech. First, there’s a dramatic overview of the “great and powerful forces” shaping America’s future: globalization, the aging of the US citizenry, dependence on foreign oil, the rise of China and India. Unfortunately, Bayh continues, given the state of politics today, we aren’t addressing these problems the way we should be. Washington is crippled by “brain-dead gridlock” — here Bayh bangs his fists together softly — by “strident ideology,” by “extreme partisanship that accomplishes nothing.”

Once the picture is sufficiently gloomy, Bayh offers a glimmer of hope. He admits to having a sunny disposition (“I’m by nature an optimist. That’s just the way I’m wired”). And then he explains what this optimism did for Indiana. During his two terms as governor, Bayh brags, the state added more jobs than in any other eight-year period on record — and during his tenure, the Hoosier State had the largest budget surplus in state history. But Bayh didn’t just balance the books. Under his watch, Indiana also launched the 21st Century Scholars program, which guarantees low-income children full college scholarships if, in eighth grade, they sign and then keep a pledge promising to graduate from high school and not use drugs. Since the program started, Bayh says proudly, Indiana’s college-matriculation rate has risen from 40th to ninth in the US.

On to national security, where Democrats have an obligation, as Bayh puts it, to show voters that they can be both “tough and smart.” “Too many Democrats, when the issue of national security comes up, it’s, ‘Oh boy, change the subject,’ ” Bayh told a brunch meeting of the New Hampshire Young Democrats last weekend. “We can’t change the subject, even if we wanted to. Events won’t allow it; the Republicans won’t allow it. We need to take this issue on, and win on an issue that’s a part of their core strategy.” Here’s Bayh’s money line: The truth of the matter is, the Republicans have been one heck of a lot better about national-security politics than they have been about national-security policy. They may have won some elections. But the American people have lost ground.

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Related: The real anti-Hillary stands up, The ‘A’ word, Ridge to the future, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Democratic Leadership Council, Domestic Policy, Domestic Security Policy,  More more >
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Hoosier daddy
Living in Indiana, I notice your article leaves out a HUGE, and GLARING reality.. Bayh came to power at a time of great problems in Indiana, much of it due to systemic Republican corruption But,the Next DEM Governor managed to destroy everything Bayh had built in just 5 short years... He blew the $2 Billion rainy day fund that Bayh had accumulated to buy votes for re-election, saying "They call it The Rainy Day Fund. Well it's never rained, and we need to make this money work!".... 11 months later, it was frikken' pouring... 9/11 hit, the state was BROKE, and the 2 Billion dollars set back FOR THIS VERY EVENT was gone. You can guess the rest... Massive tax increases, massive cuts, and all because the Dems reverted to true form......
By HaggardHoosier on 03/31/2006 at 2:23:35
Hoosier daddy
I sincerely doubt Bayh was the savior to Indiana that a lot of people think he was. I personally don't believe that there was any money in a Rainy Day fund. I think Bayh's group cooked the books to make everyone believe we were in better shape than we really were. Unfortunately, nobody has the guts to do a complete audit from when Bayh took over through O'Bannon/Kernan's tenure. It would probably open a lot of people's eyes! This Hoosier will never, ever vote for Bayh! He has consistantly voted WITH Hillary and the far left Dems since he became a Senator.
By db on 03/31/2006 at 8:26:52
Hoosier daddy
Forgive me if I sound insensitive, but what, exactly, does 9/11 have to do with the state of Indiana's finances? I'm not following you.
By rst on 03/31/2006 at 10:42:10
Hoosier daddy
I'll agree that what the Democrats need in '08 to win is what happened in '92 but it is not another smoothie like Bill Clinton. The only way to a Democratic victory is a conservative third party candidate to the right of the mainline Republican - a latter day Perot. I don't see that happening although it is not out of the question if McCain is the Republican nominee. That's one reason for the MSM focus on McCain. As a moderate Republican, I do see Bayh as an attractive, respectable candidate. I'll listen to what he has to say and evaluate it for what it's worth. I may well not like what I hear, but I will listen. Hilary Clinton gets no such consideration as she is damaged goods and a transparent manipulator.
By Whitehall on 03/31/2006 at 1:19:45
Hoosier daddy
Let's face it, Hillary is unelectable. Bayh is arguably one of the most electable candidates the Dems have...and there are very few of them. One fact the author left out...Mitch Daniels is the governor and he would appoint Bayh's senate successor in the event Bayh resigns his seat and/or if he's elected president.
By drnoe on 03/31/2006 at 2:36:27
Hoosier daddy
As a lifelong conservative Hoosier, I find it amusing that after 8 years as governor the only accomplishment Bayh can point to is some fluff education gimmick (that nobody here as even heard of). Don't be deceived. Yes Indiana prospered when Bayh was governor but so did every other state and even then Indiana lagged the country. Under Bayh and his party's majority, jobs were lost, sneaky taxes increased, state infrastructure deteriorated. Funny how history has a way of re-writing itself for politicians. And the results of 8 years with Bayh at the helm in Indiana got passed on to the next poor sucker who happened to be Bayh's lt. governor. If you want to know the real Bayh and where he stands, just look who he voted with against confirming Rice as Sec of State.
By Yoda on 04/01/2006 at 8:41:24

More Information

Separated at birth?

If Evan Bayh and Mitt Romney face off in the ’08 presidential election, voters will get some eerie parallelism. Both men have fathers who tried and failed to become president. Both say they're capable of uniting Democrats and Republicans. And both would be “anti-” candidates — Bayh to Hillary Clinton, and Romney to John McCain, whose mercurial personality and deviations from Republican orthodoxy make him Romney’s antithesis.

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