Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bayh, Democrats & Security: The Nitty Gritty, Down & Dirty

Bayh, Democrats & Security: The Nitty Gritty, Down & Dirty

for Howey Political Report Feb. 16, 2006

USA Today reports the Democrats are assembling their own version of a "Contract with America" to unite the party by spring or summer, but nowadays it seems nothing divides the opposition quicker than a call to rally.

Reaction to Sen. Evan Bayh's "tough and smart" talk on national security Feb. 2 (see HPR Feb. 9) is a case in point. An apparent effort to shape the Democratic agenda and possibly score in the arena of public opinion as well, the Senator urged his party to challenge the Republicans on national security.

The story almost instantly went coast-to-coast, but while the cameras clicked and pundits debated, the gist of Bayh's message was seeping into the cracks and fissures that divide "the party of the common man."

The blogosphere struck back with characteristic speed and venom on Feb. 9th after the Senator posted a 500-word version of his 3,500 word speech at the web site of The Huffington Post. "The Wimpy Empty Suits Undermining Dems on National Security," wrote David Sirota, a campaign strategist and writer who appears regularly on Al Franken's radio show. Hundreds posted comments. A slew of Democrats loudly opposed anyone - including Bayh, Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman and others - who at any time supported the war in Iraq. Republican lite, they said. Or DINO. Or worse.

Others said America's security hinges on domestic issues, and believe tough talk simply plays into the hands of the administration. Still others were offended by what columnist Molly Ivins described as playing "the patriotic bully card." Sadly, some comments were downright full of the spittle that makes politics an unhappy place for many Americans. It's not that everyone piled on - numerous blogs and comments expressed support for the message from Indiana's junior senator - but the tone and content of many posts make it clear national security is going to be a difficult plank for the Democratic Party to nail down.

If Bayh was looking to elevate the debate - well, he certainly made it hot and interesting at least for several days, until the news broke that Vice President Dick Cheney shot a friend while hunting Feb. 11, and that story began to consume everyone's attention. If the senator was hoping to become better known among Democrats, one can easily imagine such is the case, though a recent poll of New Hampshire voters doesn't seem to signal much in the way of progress for the Bayh campaign.

Little Support In New Hampshire Democratic Poll

New Hampshire's voting elite are acquainted with a previous version of Bayh's tough talk. Speaking before 600 of the state's most influential Democrats at a fundraiser in Manchester last October, he slammed the White House on North Korea and military deployment, according to the Concord Monitor. Apparently, the crowd was not swayed - the Monitor of Feb. 12th reported that the Hoosier senator polled just one percent among persons likely to vote in that state's Democratic primary, finishing well behind Hillary Clinton (32 percent) and undecided (31), and trailing, among others, John Edwards (9) and John Kerry and Wesley Clark (7 each).

Testing The Waters In Iowa

Perhaps Bayh will make a better impression in Iowa, where he spent the first part of this week on the hustings. According to news reports, his "presidential exploratory campaign" visited Cedar Rapids for a speech and breakfast, Iowa City for a meeting with local leaders, Ottumwa for a fundraiser and Des Moines to meet with Democrats in the state legislature (Louisville Courier-Journal).

He made a bit of a splash in Des Moines when he pledged to support Iowa's Democratic state lawmakers in the fall campaign to help them regain control of the state Legislature, according to Mike Glover of the Associated Press.

"I wanted to establish a strong partnership," Bayh told Glover. "If we're going to have a strong national Democratic Party it's got to start at the grassroots level, in Statehouses, in the city halls, in the county courthouses."

Aides told the Des Moines Register that Bayh could return to Iowa as early as May.

All America PAC: Stingy Or Shrewd?

A Feb. 14th article distributed by Bloomberg provided an analysis of recent Federal Election Commission filings that indicates Bayh's leadership PAC - All America PAC - is ranked sixth in Congress. The article noted that he, like others considered to be presidential contenders, has given only a small amount (4.8 percent for Bayh) in support of other federal candidates and committees, compared with an average of 22 percent for the top 25 PACs. Bayh was more generous than Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who gave 1.8 percent.

Watchdog groups are calling for tighter regulations for all lawmakers' leadership PACs, in part because they have multiplied - more than 40 percent of the members of Congress now have them - and because some have veered from their original purpose of contributing to other candidates, according to the news account.


Blogger Marie said...

Mike keep up the good work! Please visit us over at Americans For Bayh!

best wishes marie

5:43 PM  

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