Pondering an Evan Bayh redux

February 22, 2010
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Speculation that Evan Bayh will run for governor in 2012 and use the office as a springboard to the presidency in 2016 has taken on a life of its own since his announcement a week ago he wouldn’t seek a third term in the U.S. Senate.

Outlets ranging from the mainstream Associated Press to obscure political blogs have noted Bayh didn’t rule out a gubernatorial run. He also pointed out his preference for executive positions and enjoyment of public service. And he’s sitting on a pile of cash.

Some interesting scenarios could play out if he does run for governor.

As was the case when Bayh first became governor in 1988, he’d likely arrive in office with the wind at his back. The economy should be stronger, and it might stay robust until he finished a presidential run. He wouldn’t be faced with unpopular budget or administrative decisions like the governors who are still trying to survive the recession’s aftermath.

A rising economy could churn out more tax revenue for projects that might get Bayh noticed during a presidential run.

Bayh’s steady, keep-the-wheels-on style also might prove appealing if Hoosiers want a rest. Eight years of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ reforms could create enough fatigue that voters would clamor for someone, anyone, who promises not to change their lives.

It will be interesting to see what Hoosier voters actually want in 2012. Most know the state is in a world of hurt and aren’t enamored with prospects of a bleak future. If companies start announcing expansions and residents think the storm is passing, they might opt for status quo; if they believe the expansions and new jobs are too little, too late, they might demand creative ideas, which would force Bayh to innovate.

Keep in mind that despite the flurry of energy from the Daniels administration, the main benchmark the administration uses to monitor its effectiveness, per-capita personal income, is still growing slower than the national average. And school performance is stuck in neutral.

Daniels’ reforms, along with the changes launched in recent months by state education chief Tony Bennett, might bear fruit in the long term. Daniels and Bennett argue it’s hard to turn around a state that’s been languishing since the Nixon era.

If the changes bear fruit, and schools perform better and the economy creates well-paying jobs, Bayh benefits. If they don’t, he has room to say he can do better.

Hoosiers may or may not want a cautious Bayh. But in order to stand out to presidential voters, Bayh will need to add timber to a resume that’s pretty thin on significant accomplishments.

So, Bayh might have to take uncharacteristic risk whether he wants to or not.

What do you think about Bayh running for governor again—or for president, for that matter? Should he, or shouldn’t he?

How would voters receive him, and what would he need to do to win?

  • If that is Bayhs plan, he is about two years to late. He only won in Indiana based on being a conservative democrat. He did this by never really having to make a stand on real political issues.

    Unfortunately for him, his true colors were revealed when Obama put pressure to vote liberally on issues including the Health Plan even though his constituents were so sharply against it. Now he has shown his liberal side, Indiana voters will not mistake him for a conservative again.
    • Had his chance...
      Then-Gov. Bayh could have fixed property taxes and education in the 90s, but didn't. Now we're paying for it. I certainly wouldn't vote for him to fix it. Sadly, though, if Lt. Gov. Skillman is the best the R's have to offer, he'll win if he runs.
    • Really?
      Indiana was a blue state in the presidential election, so clearly we don't mind being a little left of center.
    • Really?
      Indiana was a blue state in the presidential election, so clearly we don't mind being a little left of center.
    • Enough
      Indiana voters have had enough of Bayh and his big gov't ways. He voted for the wars overseas, the health care takeover, the bailouts, and the climate change bill. He is clearly a part of the group that believes gov't should run people's lives. Indiana residents need to start voting for representatives who will adhere to the US and state Constitutions, will return gov't to its limited roots, and will recognize govt's proper role which is to protect the individual rights of the people.
    • Bayh
      Once was enough. He's been spoiled by the Washington machine. He and Coats need to ride their sails into the sunset. We don't need a redo.
    • Blue State in '08
      I agree with Jo... some people have a short memory that our state went blue in the presidential election... it's not a longshot that it could go blue again for the governor's seat and/or Bayh's vacant senate seat.
    • It went blue because it was caught up in the cult of personality. Like many States we were fooled into thinking Obama really meant change. Of course we know he is another tax and spend dem. the change is that he is a spender that makes all of the others look like conseratives.

      don't fool yourself, the defecting dems are the tip of the iceberg. anything associated with dems will be voted out for years to come.
    • Eh...
      Indyman, I could agree with you that "the cult of personality" affects a swing state... but, it's hard for me to believe that was the only reason Indiana went from a red state (not a swing state) to a blue state. We are historically not considered a swing state, and are a red state... and in my opinion, to push a red state to a blue state would take more than just a personality contest.

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