Evan Bayh is running for president.
For about five minutes early this week, that story got a little traction. And then it fell apart on examination. It all began when Larry Sabato, a respected political scientist at the University of Virginia decided to twitter, "When Bayh said, 'I'm an executive at heart,' might have been hinting at POTUS run in '16, not just an IN GOV bid in '12." So maybe, in the far-flung future, Evan Bayh might consider running for president. Then again, maybe not. The bigger question would be, at this point in time, who even cares?
That story got picked up by Ryan Grim at Huffington Post, who grabbed the wheel of the baseless-speculation-mobile and floored it. "Let's stir [the rumor pot] even harder," Grim wrote. "Could Bayh, who backed Hillary Clinton for president in 2008, jump into a primary against Obama in 2012 from a conservative direction? His resignation speech touched all the Clintonian bases, from welfare reform, to budget cutting to a strong national defense with a reference to 9/11 thrown in." A centrist Democrat managed to sound like another centrist Democrat -- what are the odds? As evidence for a presidential run goes, it was pretty weak.
As I said, this lasted about five minutes, political time. By Monday morning, the rumor was dead. On MSNBC's morning yack program, Evan Bayh himself shoveled dirt into the grave. Asked on Morning Joe if he had any plans to run for president, Bayh answered, "None, whatsoever."
So that was fun while it lasted...
Of course, it was obvious that Bayh wouldn't run in '12, because -- as Matthew Yglesias points out -- "talk of Evan Bayh somehow challenging Barack Obama for the 2012 Democratic nomination is bizarre. No incumbent president has ever been defeated in a primary." This means that it's a purely activist endeavor. You do it to try to pull the incumbent to the left (assuming said incumbent is Democrat Barack Obama). There's no reason to run to the right of the incumbent in the primary, since he's certain to run against a conservative in the general. Evan Bayh, a conservative-leaning Democrat, would have absolutely no reason to want to do that -- especially considering that his reason for quitting was that things are too contentious and partisan in Washington. Why on Earth would he want to run a doomed, ideologically-driven leftist campaign in '12?
And, despite his complaining about DC partisanship, his timing in retiring -- whatever his reasons -- was deeply partisan.
Republicans are livid about the timing of Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-Ind.) retirement announcement.
They have at least four candidates in the upcoming primary while the Indiana Democratic Party will get to decide its nominee.
Indiana required nominating petitions to be filed by noon Tuesday. Bayh announced Monday he would not seek reelection, giving would-be candidates less than 24 hours to get on the ballot.
Republicans have four candidates who made the deadline and a fifth whose signatures are being validated. Democrats had no serious successor in position, given that Bayh had already his filed his nominating petitions and had $13 million in bank.
No Democrat was able to meet Indiana's filing requirements. Those requirements are completely insane -- seriously, this is awful for a citizen-based democratic process. In order to get on the primary ballot, you have to collect 500 signatures from each congressional district -- 4,500 in all. So the Indiana Democratic Party gets to choose the candidate they think has the best chance of winning. No primary battles to be won or lost and no money to be wasted in those battles. This is a tremendous advantage.
But, as good as that is for Democrats, I'm not extremely happy with it. The primary system was designed to do away with this exact thing -- party flacks chosen in the infamous "smoke-filled room" by other party flacks. It's a formula for corruption. As much as I enjoy hearing Republicans squeal, I have to concede their point. If the situations were reversed, I'm certain I'd complain about it too.
What Bayh will do with his $13 million is an open question. He can hold onto it and use it for a run for a different office, but that seems unlikely. Speculation aside, he's said he has his eyes on the private sector. I'm inclined to take him at his word. A Bayh spokesperson says he hasn't decided what he'll do with the warchest, "But you can expect him to be helpful to the nominee." A chunk -- if not all -- of $13 million to spend in the general election, with no primary opponents to worry about. Pretty sweet.
No wonder people think Evan Bayh might become a lobbyist. That makes way more sense than a presidential candidate.
Because, if everything works out in the end, he'd have at least one senator already bought and paid for.
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