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."


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