Of all the Democratic Senators up for reelection next fall in states which normally vote Republican, I had assumed (and still contend) that Indiana’s Evan Bayh would have the easiest time winning reelection. To be sure, Indiana did narrowly go for Obama last fall, but the Democrat really invested in the state while McCain took it for granted until polls showed the “red” state to be a tossup.
Of the eighteen seats currently held by Democrats up next fall, only two are in states which McCain won (Arkansas and North Dakota). Of the remaining fifteen states (there are two Senate races in New York next fall), Indiana delivered the smallest margin of victory to the Democratic nominee. Given her vote this morning for cloture on the Reid-Baucus-Dodd-Harkin amendment, there’s not much Blanche Lincoln can do to save her Arkansas Senate seat. Should North Dakota Governor John Hoeven challenge his state’s junior Senator, that seat will flip as well. But, now even a lesser known opponent has a chance against Byron Dorgan, albeit probably not a strong one unless he can raise a pile of cash.
Which brings us back to Indiana. I’ve always liked Evan Bayh and not just because we went to the same law school (albeit at different times). He’s a decent fellow and does not engage in the partisan demagoguery of the leaders of his partisan caucus. As Democrats go, he’s pretty moderate, but still considerably to the left of center. And now in voting for cloture, he has signed on to a massive increase of government power. Hardly a moderate vote that.
In 2004, against a well-funded opponent in a state that George W. Bush won with 60% of the vote, Bayh ran ahead of the Republican presidential nominee, beating a well-funded GOP opponent by over half-a-million votes.
2004, however, was not a throw-the-bums out year. And it sure looks like 2010 is shaping up to be such a year. Could Indiana voters send its popular former Governor packing? Will he suffer the fate of his father in a similar such year? Right now, I wouldn’t bet on it. But, thirty years ago, this month no one would have bet on a 2-term Congressman to unseat the well-liked Democrat. One year later, on November 2, 1980, Dan Quayle easily ousted the elder Bayh.