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Is Evan Bayh Ripe To Pull A Reverse Specter?


Ryan Nees, writing in Indiana’s Howey Politics, looks at Bayh’s tack to the right and says "there’s a future for Evan Bayh" in a "radicalized shell" of the Republican party:

What bizarre timing for the final break, it would seem, given that the Democratic Party’s popularity is at its highest point in Bayh’s political career, and Indiana, after all, voted in 2008 for the Democratic candidate for President, the first time since 1964. Yet this also makes sense, as Bayh has come to recognize that his future in the Barack Obama-dominated Democratic Party is dim: he was passed over for vice president, never emerged as a Claire McCaskill-like confidant, and became an irrelevant bridge to a sinking Clintonian ship when Obama deftly neutralized Hillary Clinton’s internal opposition by making her secretary of state.

Bayh’s reaction has been to position himself as the most obstructionist Democrat in Congress, just in case Obama’s popular presidency goes south. Bayh’s installed himself leader of a “Blue Dog” caucus in the Senate of 16 moderate Democrats, who meet regularly with the implicit purpose of putting the et tu brakes on Obama’s legislative agenda; or as Bayh put it in the Washington Post, “Many independents voted for President Obama and the contours of his change agenda, but they will not rubber-stamp it.”

In March, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell gleefully read one of Bayh’s anti-Obama screeds from the Wall Street Journal into the Congressional Record, suggesting as Bayh did that Obama “jeopardized [his] credibility” on the deficit with the proposed omnibus budget. Last week, Bayh was one of only three Democrats to vote no.  “If you’re going to get to 60 votes in the Senate, you’re going to need the vast majority of this group. We can be the fulcrum upon which policy will balance,” Bayh threatened last month.

So this is as good a time for Bayh as any other to bolt, for him and for the Republican Party. It needs to retool to the realities of a realigning electorate, and Bayh could be a perfect GOP response to what may end up being a presidency of liberal overreach (think a former Democrat as a “New Republican”). And he needs a new party to entertain his ego, which is surely becoming exhausting to Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

As Specter finds his “political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans,” Bayh might ask himself the same question. He could follow the Pennsylvanian’s lead, and be just as politically self-serving in his answer. Why not become that new voice of the Republican Party? The door might not even hit him on the way out.

Bayh’s popularity continues to be strong in Indiana,.  With a 74% approval rating and an $11 million war chest (much of it left over from his Presidential bid) the Republicans probably won’t try to field anyone against him in 2010.

But Obama’s Indiana victory indicates that Bayh and the state may  moving in the opposite political direction.  And I’ll just note that although it’s anecdotal, the kind of persistent local progressive discontent coming out of Indiana about Bayh is the kind of thing we look for when we’re assessing whether a candidate would be vulnerable to a primary challenge.

Joe Lieberman had a 68% approval rating in Connectibut in August 2005.   Obviously, that didn’t tell the whole story.

h/t EK

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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