Making Sense of Sen. Bayh's Goodbye

Pundits weigh implications and motivations for Bayh's Senate retirement

By DANIEL MACHT
|  Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010  |  Updated 4:45 AM PDT
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Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh could leave President Obama a vote short in the Senate.

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If Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh struggled in the past to build name recognition beyond the Hoosier state, he has the nation’s attention now.

A known presidential aspirant said to have been on President Obama's VP short list, Bayh’s announcement Monday that he will not seek a third term shocked the political world. Bayh cited frustration with the partisanship and gridlock of Washington as reasons for his decison, but pundits saw other motivations at work. Here's what the chattering class is saying about Bayh's goodbye and its implications for national politics:

  • “One of two things is happening here: either Bayh is truly tired of being a senator right now, as he claims, or he's got a savvy long-term game plan to leave the swamp, recapture some outsider credentials and return in a few years as a new national leader for the Democrats,” writes Joshua Greenman for the New York Daily News. And by national leader, he means a presidential candidate.
     
  • Over at The Indianapolis Star, Matthew Tully accepts Bayh’s stated reasons for leaving Washington. “I hate to be naive. But the thought that a 54-year-old father of two teenage sons might want to give something else a try, while also stepping away from a toxic political environment, doesn't seem far-fetched,” he writes.
     
  • Whatever his intentions, Bayh’s retirement "gives Republicans a prime pick-up opportunity," write Domenico Montanaro and Mark Murray for MSNBC. The GOP could retake at least eight states, though they will need 10 seats to win back control of the Senate, they write. 
  • As Bayh goes, so does centrism in the Senate, argues former White House press secretary Mike McCurry on Politico’s “Arena” blog. “Evan Bayh is part of the glue that holds an increasingly polarized place like the U.S. Senate together, “ McCurry writes. “Centrism is not much in fashion these days but the lack of it is wrecking our country.”
     
  • CNN’s political analyst, Jennifer Donahue, blames the left. “You have so much pressure coming at the president from the left flank of the party and so much pressure embedded in Congress on the left," she says. “I think Democrats have to take a good, hard look at what they're doing to the centrists in their party and why. It's not a winning formula to push out the centrists, so why?"
     
  • What a nightmare for Democratic sports fans from Indiana, writes Jimmy Orr for the Christian Science Monitor. “First the Super Bowl and now your near-lock Senator Evan Bayh isn't running again,” he writes. One likely silver lining of Bayh’s sudden move means that Democrats will probably choose the strongest candidate to run and not fight a bruising primary, Orr writes. “However, a little known candidate -- a political novice named Tamyra D'Ippolito -- reportedly has 3,500 signatures. She has about 18 hours to get the extra 1,000,” he warns. If D'Ippolito can pull it off a ballot slot, “it's impact would be the equivalent of Manning's fourth quarter interception.”
     

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