Bayh's Retirement Creates A Problem For Democrats
LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:
Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana says his decision not to seek a third term was not about whether he could win reelection or not.
EVAN BAYH: My decision should not be interpreted for more than it is: a very difficult, deeply personal one. I'm an executive at heart. I value my independence. I'm not motivated by strident partisanship or ideology. These traits may be useful in many walks of life, but unfortunately, they are not highly valued in Congress.
WERTHEIMER: Good morning, Ken.
KEN RUDIN: Good morning, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: So, Ken, did you see any signs that this announcement was coming?
RUDIN: The last poll had Evan Bayh up by 20 points in that race. It's also - his approval ratings in Indiana were very strong - 61 percent in the last poll I saw. In the same poll, Barack Obama had a 46 percent approval rating.
WERTHEIMER: So do you take his reasons for retiring at face value?
RUDIN: And I think if Evan Bayh was looking at a presidential run, the fact is by being such a centrist, either he was moving far to the right of his party or the party was moving too far to left of him. But his window for higher office, I think, was also gone.
WERTHEIMER: Now, he announced his decision just before the filing deadline for candidates to enter the race. So does he hurt the Democrat Party with this timing?
RUDIN: Well, there is some confusion about that. But it looks like there is a way out for the Democrat State Central Committee in Indiana that they can name a nominee as late as June 30th. And if they do that, it could save the party from an expensive and divisive primary. Of course, other people will say that's subverting democracy. But I don't think he leaves the party in the lurch, as some people think.
WERTHEIMER: Is it going to be a Republican seat?
RUDIN: The Democratic frontrunner looks like Brad Ellsworth. He's pro-gun. He's pro- life. If the progressives weren't happy with Evan Bayh, they're going to be far less happy with somebody life Brad Ellsworth.
WERTHEIMER: Bayh is the latest Democrat to cite partisanship as a major reason why he wants to leave. We're not hearing that from the Republicans, Ken.
RUDIN: And just with Byron Dorgan in North Dakota, Chris Dodd in Connecticut, a lot of those see that fortunes for November don't look so good, and they're trying to leave.
WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Ken.
RUDIN: Thank you, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: Ken Rudin is NPR's political editor. His Political Junkie blog can be found at npr.org/junkie.
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