Bush-Fatigue Contributes To Obama Win In Indiana

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Indiana hasn't gone with a Democratic presidential candidate for 44 years, but voters there helped Democrat Barack Obama defeat Republican John McCain on Tuesday. Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana tells Renee Montagne that Obama won there for three reasons: He was a transforming candidate, voters were tired of President Bush and voters want the economy fixed.


We turn now to the Democratic senator from Indiana, Evan Bayh. Indiana gave its electoral votes last night to Barack Obama. He joins us from his car outside Indianapolis. Hello.

Senator EVAN BAYH (Democratic, Indiana): Hello, Renee. How are you?

MONTAGNE: Pretty good, thank you very much. You know better than anybody, Indiana has not voted for a Democrat for president in 44 years. What changed in this election?

Senator BAYH: It was a historic night. I think three things contributed to it. First, Barack Obama proved to be a transforming candidate, inspired young people, people who were disillusioned by politics to come out and vote for a change and to support him. Secondly, on the other side, even in a state like ours that President Bush carried by more than 20 percent, there was just a lot of Bush fatigue. People wanted a change of direction. And then finally the economy out here in the heartland, Renee, doing so poorly. So many people are struggling with middle-class economic issues. And I think that most people realized that that was Senator Obama's focus. John McCain was a good man, but by his own admission, the economy was just not his strong suit. And I think you put all those things together, and it was a historic night here in Indiana.

MONTAGNE: You mentioned independents. Exit polls show that Barack Obama won among independents. Do you see this as an actual political shift for Indiana, or is it the circumstances of a bad year for the Republican brand?

Senator BAYH: Well, I think it's certainly the latter. It's possibly the former. Only time will tell. But that will depend on how President Obama governs along with the Democratic Congress. And one of our major challenges, Renee, is going to be to stay focused on people's practical concerns. To solve problems, to not be partisans, to not be ideologists, but to really, you know, move the country forward in tangible ways that people can feel in their daily lives. If we do that, it can be a transforming election.

MONTAGNE: Give us an example of when you say it could be transformative, what would be, say, an example of how it could work that way?

Senator BAYH: Well, my advice to the president-elect had been, several weeks ago, to begin by tackling the issue of energy independence. And the reason for that, Renee, is that it touches on so many different things that people are concerned about. Our nation's security with all the money we're sending to countries, some of whom are hostile to us. It obviously affects our environment. We can create millions of new jobs in retooling our economy in a more energy-efficient way. And it also will help with our financial problems as a country. So - and there's pre-existing common ground there between some Democrats and Republicans.

So if we can start with an issue, forge consensus, bring people together, show that Washington does not have to be dysfunctional and broken, then I think you begin to convince some of those independents and some of those moderate Republicans, wait a minute, maybe these are a group of people with a new approach that could really work. And perhaps their allegiances begin to change on a longer-term basis.

MONTAGNE: Well, there has been some talk of how that might happen at the level of the White House and the Cabinet. Would you expect to see Republicans in Barack Obama's administration?

Senator BAYH: Absolutely, several high-profile ones. From my own state my colleague Dick Luger, very thoughtful person on foreign policy, national security issues. I know he has a good relationship with Senator Obama. Or Bob Gates. My own advice to the president-elect had been to seriously consider keeping Robert Gates on as secretary of defense, to have continuity with national security, to show that we work together when it comes to protecting our country. And so, yes, I would expect on the national security front and perhaps on some of the financial fronts to see bipartisanship.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Senator BAYH: Renee, always a pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, speaking to us outside Indianapolis.

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