Bayh throws Democrats into a tizzy

The political world trembled on Feb. 15, when Indiana’s Democratic U.S. senator, Evan Bayh, announced he would not seek a third term.

The statement dealt a blow to Indiana Democrats by strengthening the chances that a Republican would take over the seat that Bayh, a popular former Indiana governor, was expected to easily retain in November. That expectation was fulfilled when Republican Dan Coats, a former U.S. senator turned lobbyist, defeated Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth in November. That put both of the state’s Senate seats in GOP hands.

It also served as a telling signal of the intensity of the gridlock and partisan politics in Washington. During his announcement, Bayh cited the atmosphere in Congress—and his belief that he could make a bigger impact on public policy by serving in another role—as reasons for not running again.

At the time of his decision, Bayh, a respected lawmaker who had been a strong contender to be President Obama’s running mate, had $13 million in campaign cash.

He made his announcement a day before the primary filing deadline—leaving potential candidates without time to cobble together the signatures needed to get on the ballot. The decision was left to the Democratic Party’s central committee, which picked Ellsworth as the nominee.

Ellsworth’s loss in November mirrored the defeat of Democrats in national races across the United States, driven by voter discontent over issues such as the economy and health care. Coats won about 55 percent of the vote in Indiana, as Republicans across the country took control of the U.S. House and chipped away at Democrats’ control of the Senate.

Democrats had hoped Bayh would pursue a run for governor in 2012, but he said earlier this month that he would not pursue the office again.•

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