Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bayh To New Hampshire: I'm Here For You

Bayh To New Hampshire: I'm Here For You
For Howey Political Report March 23, 2006

For more than half a century, the political geography of New Hampshire has defined many key battles in the war of ideas that is America's presidential elections. A who's who of winners and losers have toured time and again through just about every settlement the Granite State has to offer, and many a promising political career has begun and ended in towns with names like Chittenden, Wolfeboro or Stowe.

"Live Free or Die" is the state motto, and voters, said to be welcoming and open-minded, take pride in asking the hard questions. It is the site of America's first presidential primary, preceded only by the Iowa caucuses, and candidates arrive either desperate to bolster a disappointing campaign or determined to improve success. In the final days before an election it's survival of the fittest as elbows fly among erstwhile colleagues jockeying for endorsements and publicity.

"Here is democracy at its best, for it takes more than a big bankroll or name recognition to impress us," explained the late Nackey Loeb, who published two conservative newspapers.

Commission Favors Changes

But 2008 may be different. A Democratic Party commission formed after the 2004 election favors inserting one or two contests between Iowa and New Hampshire. The commission recommended that the Democratic National Committee determine which states should be selected based on "racial and ethnic diversity; geographic diversity; and economic diversity including union density."

Reportedly, the New Hampshire representative on the panel cast the lone vote in opposition. The DNC will meet in New Orleans next month to discuss the issue, although nothing final is expected before this fall.

In 1976, Evan Bayh interrupted his sophomore year at Indiana University to campaign in New Hampshire for six weeks during his father's race for the White House, and he recalled those days in a speech Sunday at a political fundraiser for State Rep. Betsi DeVries of Manchester, N.H.

"I traveled all over New Hampshire," the Hoosier senator said, according to a transcript provided by spokeswoman Meghan Keck. It was in the state's "living rooms, and coffee shops, in union halls and small businesses, " he said, where he "fell in love with the political process."

Sen. Bayh reminded listeners of a commitment he made during a previous visit with Gov. John Lynch.

"My strong impression is that the people of New Hampshire have X-Ray vision, you can spot a phony a mile off," Bayh said, and he promised "to do everything I can" to "retain your position."

Judging by media accounts, state democrats took a shine to the offer. Yesterday, Gov. Lynch offered a speech advocating the state's cause and made special mention of Bayh's support.

"Here in New Hampshire, I think voters will be watching carefully to see which candidates stand with New Hampshire to protect its traditional role," he said, according to remarks published in the Manchester Union Leader. "That's why I was so pleased to read Sen. Evan Bayh's comments earlier this week. It is clear he is a true friend to the New Hampshire primary."

In a separate article, the newspaper noted that Bayh's remarks separate him from potential Democratic Presidential candidates Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who have said they are fine with adding a caucus between Iowa and New Hampshire's contest.

A Full Plate

Sen. Bayh visited New Hampshire intending to accomplish more than raising money for local candidates and winning friends at the four publicized events he attended. He also hoped to convince voters he possesses the style and substance that can lead democrats to victory in the 2008 elections. Several newspapers posted favorable reports online.

He told a group of young democrats "The destiny of your generation is at stake," the Foster's Daily Democrat reported (free subscription required). The Portsmouth Herald quoted a former mayor of Port City: "It’s obvious he’s very experienced as a speaker," Robert Shaines said. "He’s very charismatic." An 800-word Associated Press article published in the Boston Globe included details on the substance of Bayh's speeches and noted he reiterated a position reported by HPR in December 2004: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should either resign or be fired.

Monday, the senator is slated to appear in Washington at the Legislative Conference of the Building and Construction Trades Dept. of the AFL-CIO. On April 8, he heads to Detroit for the Michigan Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

As Sen. Bayh joins the war of ideas in the emerging political landscape, he faces several difficult obstacles, not the least of which is New York's Sen. Hillary Clinton, who in the role of front-runner has already laid claim to vital monetary resources. The 2008 Democratic field numbers at least 10 contenders and so Bayh must seek to differentiate and elaborate his message to establish a singular persona of leadership, reassure Democratic voters conflicted by the war with Iraq, and persuade disaffected Republican voters on issues of security and economy.

Now, more than two years before the election, he has chosen New Hampshire as one his battlegrounds. Hoosiers wondering how Bayh will fare in the months ahead might have enjoyed hearing the following conversation during a meet and greet event at a private residence on Sunday, as reported in the March 27 Portsmouth Herald:

"We’re part of a filtering system to weed out bad candidates," said Peter Somssich of the Portsmouth Democrats.

"I hope I don’t get weeded," Bayh responded. "Pruned a little, but not weeded."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bayh: On To New Hampshire & Into The Fray

Bayh: On To New Hampshire & Into The Fray
For Howey Political Report March 23, 2006

Democrats hoping to tarnish President Bush have once again managed instead to focus more attention on their own party's shortcomings.

The call by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) on March 13 to censure the president for secretly ordering warrantless wiretaps further divides the Democratic Party by spotlighting disagreement between moderates and those eager to bring the current administration to an ignoble end.

As Indiana democrat Sen. Evan Bayh and others have pointed out it's not even clear Bush broke any law. Still, the resolution's loudest supporters include some of the most popular bloggers on the net, and they have unambiguously labeled all opposed or silent on the issue as cowardly, enabling DINOs (Democrats In Name Only). Only two of 48 democrat senators have signed as co-sponsors to S. Res. 398, Barbara Boxer of California and Thomas Harkin of Iowa.

Republicans are doubly pleased. Not only did the resolution create intraparty flak for potential Democratic presidential contenders like Bayh and Hillary Clinton, but it also provided raw material the GOP used to motivate Republican voters just as polls began to indicate even the faithful were becoming dissatisfied with party leadership.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal survey conducted before the resolution was introduced found Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to express high interest in the November midterms.

"Nobody knows what will transpire between now and November and how much intensity each party's voters will have," explained Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report, "but as of now, Democrats have a pronounced intensity advantage and enough of one to probably outweigh the GOP organizational edge."

Observers from both parties said the Republicans probably will not find much leverage with the issue, although that hasn't stopped them from trying. Conservative pundits and GOP political operatives are happy to dwell on the fact that democrats have proposed to "give aid and comfort to the enemy" by censuring a wartime president. Yesterday's Investors Business Daily included an editorial entitled "If Democrats Win The House..." which stated, "Under a Democratic House, impeachment would be the judiciary panel's first order of business."

The Republicans "have sent an editorial on the censure attempt to 15 million contributors," according to resolution-supporter James Zogby of the Arab American Institute. "By warning the party faithful of what Democrats may do if they gain control of either Houses of Congress in November, Republicans hope to spur 2006 election fundraising."

On To New Hampshire

Bayh's opposition to the censure resolution, the flagging luster of the GOP brand, and prospects for Democratic victory in midterm elections are sure to be on the minds of those who will meet with the senator when he travels to New Hampshire Sunday and Monday. Such trips afford Bayh the chance to meet as many Democrats as possible in a state that prefers its politics up close and personal. One politically active New Hampshire native eager to learn more about Sen. Bayh recently explained to HPR, "We don't like to vote for someone unless we've had the opportunity to shake their hand."

Judging from his Sunday schedule, Indiana's junior senator is well acquainted with the concept. "Come listen to Senator Evan Bayh [speak about] the issues that are facing our country and about the power that young democrats have to make a difference by voting, working in the community, and running for office," reads the invite to a 10:15 a.m. brunch in Portsmouth with the New Hampshire Young Democrats.

Then, at 2 p.m. Bayh is slated to appear about 40 miles away in Manchester during a fete on behalf of Alderwoman Betsi Devries, and finally it's another 40-minute drive north to the Franklin Democratic Committee Spaghetti Dinner, a fundraiser for Jim Ryan and Peter Burling (tickets are $20 per person at the door).

Sen. Bayh generated publicity in Iowa last month when he pledged support to lawmakers there. "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," the senator told Mike Glover of the Associated Press. Bayh spokeswoman Meghan Keck explained to HPR in an email that the senator's support in both states "would include helping them raise money and campaigning with them or anything else they would find helpful."

As senator and possible presidential contender, Bayh lends a heightened level of interest to otherwise local venues. Appearances such as these may be good for the party but also are in keeping with an effort to establish roots that could one day blossom into a full-fledged primary campaign. Success this weekend depends on first impressions, which bodes well for a senator known for his ability to work a room and connect one-one-one with voters in individual encounters. How the people will react to Bayh's take on the controversial and often divisive issues in today's politics remains to be seen.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Evan Bayh: One Brick At A Time

Evan Bayh: One Brick At A Time

For Howey Political Report March 16, 2006

"One brick at a time" is how blogger and enthusiastic "Bayh Partisan" Bill Earl described Evan Bayh's progress this week on the road to the White House.

"He's not making a lot of noise," Earl wrote in a column to motivate supporters. "But he is doing all the right things."

In fact, the Hoosier senator was preaching to the choir on Monday night when he urged Georgia Democrats to reach out "to independents and reasonable Republicans." Much as he has throughout the past several weeks, Bayh touted his success at the polls in red-state Indiana during the 2004 election.

"On the same day that Bush was carrying Indiana by 21 percent, I was privileged to be re-elected by 24 percent," he told the crowd of about 1,250 who attended the state's Jefferson-Jackson dinner. "Forty-five percent of the people in our state split their ticket, and we didn’t do that by selling out and becoming Republicans, we did that by reaching out and convincing them that we had what it took to lead the state of Indiana forward to better times, and we can do that in Georgia, too, we can do that for this country, too."

Several newspapers picked up on the story. "Republicans aren't invincible, Bayh says," was the headline in the Indianapolis Star. The senator believes "the party needs to focus on national security and family values if they want to beat Republicans in November," read an Associated Press article distributed nationally. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted "the $200-a-plate event raised more than $700,000."

The success in Atlanta came amid word that Bayh has been invited to keynote the Michigan J-J fete in Detroit April 8, and follows on the heels of a well-received speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington.

Taking Care Of Business

A bevy of Sen. Bayh's legislative proposals also garnered attention from various quarters.

• LIHEAP (March 7) - The Senate passed legislation co-sponsored by Bayh to provide $1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

• Media Violence & Children (March 9) - A committee approved bipartisan legislation he co-sponsored to fund research into the impact of television, video games and other media on children’s development.

• Earmarks Letter (March 9) - Several news outlets reported on a bipartisan letter signed by Bayh and others urging President Bush to reduce earmarks.

• START Act (March 13) - Sen. Bayh introduced legislation that he said "would significantly reduce an estimated $17 billion in capital gains tax that currently goes unpaid each year." (Financial Times).

• Funeral Protests (March 15) - Bayh announced plans to introduce legislation to protect military families from protesters who picket and disrupt the funerals of fallen American soldiers.

Not bad for a week's work, but disappointing in terms of immediate media gratification. Any potency in Bayh's message to Georgia Democrats was diluted when the media responded to Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-Wisc.) resolution Monday to censure President Bush for secretly ordering warrantless wiretaps on suspected terrorists, including some Americans.

Few newspapers noted Bayh doesn't favor the resolution. According to the Journal-Constitution, Bayh explained, "We do need to do things a little differently to get all the al-Qaida communications they need to get." The Star reported that "Bayh said it's not clear whether the law requiring court approval before surveillance was broken, and he instead favors revisiting and possibly updating the law."

It's Hard Out Here For A Pip

The cover story in Sunday's New York Times Magazine was a 9,000 word article exploring the presidential ambitions of Virginia Democrat Mark Warner. Reporter Matt Bai described Warner as "the popular centrist governor of a Southern state — just like the last two Democrats to actually win the White House, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton."

Bai said Warner is a popular choice with the anti-Hillary crowd. "The Democratic field now looking a lot like Gladys Knight and the Pips — and you can guess who gets to be Gladys," Bai wrote. "The party's insiders, expecting Clinton to be a virtually unstoppable force, seem to be falling in line behind her, which means there will be only so much additional money and organization left over for those who would challenge her."

Several observers have predicted Bayh and Warner stand the best chance of averting a Clinton coronation.

"A Warner-Bayh or Bayh-Warner ticket could be well nigh unbeatable," Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, wrote in January, but, he added, "Republicans need not worry: The Virginia-Indiana pairing makes so much political sense that the Democrats will never actually do it."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Evan Bayh's Spring
(Or, The Sense God Gave Geese)

Evan Bayh's Spring (Or, The Sense God Gave Geese)

for Howey Political Report March 9, 2006

Washington's famed Cherry Blossom Festival is more than two weeks away, but, after the successes of the past several days, one might forgive Sen. Evan Bayh and staff if they feel like celebrating spring early.

Indiana's former governor addressed one of the most eminent venues in modern politics, earned widespread press coverage for proposals on energy and the Dubai ports deal, and, just for sauce, received an endorsement from Rolling Stone magazine.

American Israeli PAC

On Monday night the junior senator was well-received as a featured speaker at the national conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Among the 5,000 in attendance were the most familiar names in national politics, including more than half the Senate and 125 representatives.

It may have been a dreary winter night outside, but nary a chill penetrated the tight security inside the Convention Center as the crowd warmed to dinner and drinks within an expansive hall illuminated by wall-sized TV screens and 30-foot renderings of Israeli and American flags. A quiet overtook the room when the first speaker was introduced, the Honorable Susan Collins, Republican senator from Maine, who elicited brief episodes of applause during an over-lengthy address, but the excitement of the evening had begun to wane by the time Sen. Evan Bayh took the stage. "I look around the room this evening and I know I am with a roomful of friends," he said in that same voice familiar to most Hoosiers. About seven minutes in he earned a 20-second ovation with this statement:

"Until Hamas recognizes the right of Israel to exist, until it renounces the use of terror not only in word but in deed, until it recognizes the agreements that have already been struck on behalf of the Palestinian people, it should receive not one penny, not one penny, from the United States of America."

Another seven minutes or so later he addressed Iran's nuclear ambitions with a promise of "not on our watch," which was followed by another 20 seconds of applause. Bayh then broached the subject of his energy bill, asserting that "the challenge of our generation" is to ensure the security and future of the U.S. by achieving energy independence.

The message struck a chord for many in the audience. Attorney Robert S. Persky of Jersey City admitted he was unfamiliar with Bayh prior to the evening but said he was impressed and asked how to contact the senator's campaign. Fifteen-year-old Barry Rosekind of California and his fellow students from Kehillan Jewish High School appreciated Bayh's "energy and charisma." North Chicago resident Ethel Fenig, acquainted with his record as Indiana's governor, said she admired Bayh's direct and forthright message.

Bayh has yet to be confused for a fiery orator at a time when the Democratic Party is in need of an old-fashioned revival. While Iowa pundit David Yepsen wrote in an otherwise laudatory column that Bayh is "a tad stiff and has a distinct charisma deficit" (Des Moines Register), HPR publisher Brian Howey has developed an appreciation for the senator's ability to work a room. Favorable reaction to the AIPAC event bodes well for the Bayh camp, but plenty of work lies ahead. Next Monday night he takes the show to College Park, Ga., to keynote the state Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

A Fractured GOP?

Other recent developments lend further momentum to Bayh's efforts to establish a presidential-grade political persona. There is growing unease among Republicans with President Bush, who is polling abysmally. As the March 3rd issue of the conservative Patriot Post newsletter stated, "Republicans have so demoralized their conservative base that even the most staunchly ideological conservatives are suggesting that a Democrat-controlled House may be necessary to remind Republicans why, precisely, we voted them into office."

America woke up yesterday morning to learn that top GOP lawmakers are planning to block a Dubai company from taking over operations of several U.S. ports, setting up a showdown with the White House (VOA). Sen. Bayh has criticized the process that approved the port sale (see HPR, Feb. 23), and several news stories cited his legislative proposal to give the Director of National Intelligence more power to nix such deals. Later yesterday, the Drudge Report linked to a story wherein participants at a discussion hosted by the Libertarian Cato Institute compared Bush with Nixon and labeled the president inept, vindictive and socialist (Washington Post).

Observers are turning their attention to the Republican Leadership Conference, which begins tomorrow in Memphis, where it may be seen just how far GOP frontrunners like John McCain or Bill Frist are willing to distance themselves from the president's policies.

Like A Rolling Stone

Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone magazine's National Affairs Daily wrote this on the Democrats and Iran: "If the Democrats had the sense God gave geese - and I have my doubts - they would lock the entire congressional caucus, as well as every prospective 2008 presidential candidate, in a room and not come out until they'd developed an aggressive, coherent, unified approach to dealing with Iran - preferably along the lines Indiana Senator Evan Bayh."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bayh Plan Seen As Sensible Step

Bayh Plan Seen As Sensible Step
To Reduce Dependence On Foreign Oil

for Howey Political Report March 2, 2006

Over the years, Republican Richard Lugar has wielded significant influence over development of the nation's energy policy, but these days it's a plan proposed by Democrat Evan Bayh that is seen by many in Congress and industry as a sensible step in the effort to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

The list of senators who have signed on as co-sponsors of S.2025, known as the Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act, includes the likes of Lugar, Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Obama Barack (D-IL) and Sam Brownback (R-KS). The two most recent co-sponsors, Republicans Lincoln Chafee (RI) and Johnny Isakson (GA), bring the total number of senators onboard to 11.

Pressure is building for Washington to act on the issue before a natural or manmade crisis causes crude oil to spike to $100 a barrel or worse. Economists, CEOs and risk analysts say the danger of runaway energy prices is the top threat to national and global economic security. A lack of spare output capacity and growing worries over geopolitics are making matters worse (Wall Street Journal).

On Tuesday, both Indiana senators took part in a closed-door discussion, attended by military and business leaders and a bipartisan coalition of senators, that was organized by Securing America's Future Energy, an organization committed to reducing dependence on oil. Afterward, Bayh's office issued a press release indicating that his energy plan was among items discussed.

According to Bayh's office, the legislation introduced in November would reduce the amount of oil Americans use by 2.5 million barrels per day in 10 years - the same amount the country currently purchases from the Middle East. Ultimately, Bayh's plan would reduce American oil consumption by 7 million barrels a day. The proposal would:

• Push for the development and mass marketing of hybrid technologies, including hybrids that give drivers the option to plug them in at night;

• Encourage the construction of more alternative fuel pumps at gas stations;

• Include, for the first time, fuel-efficiency standards for semi trucks;

• Offer standards to ensure fuel efficient replacement tires are offered for cars and trucks; and,

• Provide tax credits for manufacturers to retool facilities for advanced technology and alternative fuel cars and trucks.

While the plan has received support from a wide range of interests, some say any government meddling will only make the problem worse. When President Bush's State of the Union address called for federal support of research and development, for example, Ben Lieberman of the Heritage Foundation responded, "Rather than expand government interference in energy markets and pick winners and losers from among emerging technologies, Washington should get out of the way and let market forces work." Lieberman advocates reducing or eliminating regulations impacting refineries, exploration and drilling.

Any mention of alternative fuels - particularly ethanol - often incites considerable opposition as well. "In a capital city that is full of shameless political scams, ethanol is perhaps the most egregious," wrote Kevin A. Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute, also in response to the President's speech. Hassett asserts an oft-repeated litany: ethanol is a costly and less efficient fuel that contributes to air pollution.

Recent studies indicate Hassett and like-minded critics may be wrong - new technologies are improving production efficiency and creating a better fuel. An analysis by the Argonne National Laboratory in May found that ethanol can help reduce use of fossil fuels in transportation, and concluded that some types of ethanol achieve much greater energy and greenhouse gas benefits. The Sacramento Bee reports that biomass energy firms say big-time investors are starting to take note - including Bill Gates, who put $84 million into Pacific Ethanol, a company headed by former California Secretary of State Bill Jones.

The nation's energy needs were on the minds of a dozen senators - including Bayh and Lugar - when they met with President Bush in the residence of the White House Feb. 15. Bayh said he urged the president to support his bill, which is currently before the finance committee.

"The energy plan I offered this fall provides real steps that will reduce our oil consumption by the same amount we currently purchase from the Middle East," Bayh later said in a statement. "It's supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, and during our meeting, I urged the President to support my plan. If he does, my bill could become law in a matter of weeks."

Attending Port Meetings Today

Sen. Bayh's office released a statement yesterday afternoon indicating the senator will attend a Banking Committee hearing today on the Dubai takeover of American ports. On Tuesday, Bayh introduced legislation to ensure that homeland security concerns are addressed before business deals involving foreign countries are considered (see HPR, Feb. 23).

On Monday night, the senator will be featured speaker at a gala banquet of the policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group. Then, on March 13 he will keynote the Georgia Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, the state party's main fundraising event, which typically draws 1,500 to 2,000 Democratic officials and activists, according to