Thursday, April 27, 2006

Energy independence among our greatest challenges, Bayh says

Energy independence among our greatest challenges, Bayh says
For Howey Political Report April 27, 2006

America turned its attention to the gas pump this week when rapid increases raised prices to more than $3 a gallon in many areas of the country, about 25 cents more than just two weeks ago.

Oil industry analysts blamed supply disruptions, geopolitical worries and limited refining capacity, but a CNN poll indicates voters blame the oil companies (49 percent) and President Bush (38 percent).

"[C]onsiderable anxiety exists in the general public about gas - its price and availability," Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote yesterday in his political blog, The Fix. "It is a prototypical pocketbook issue - one that every American (Democrat, Republican and independent) can identify with and one that people want the government to address."

President Bush took to the airwaves Tuesday to soothe the troubled electorate and announce a "four-part plan to confront high gasoline prices."

"I think we need to follow suit on what we have been emphasizing, particularly through the energy bill, and that is to encourage conservation, to expand domestic production, and to develop alternative sources of energy like ethanol," he said.

Crude oil prices began to drop almost immediately on the announcement.

The real problem at the pump is America's short attention span. Experts have been warning us for decades of the dangers inherent in an energy system contingent on the development, production and delivery of foreign oil. Yet today, even after 9/11, our imports continue to grow.

Vulnerable To Energy Blackmail

"One of the lessons from September 11th is that we can no longer be so dependent on places like Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela for our energy supply," Sen. Evan Bayh said in a recent statement. "We and our allies are vulnerable to energy blackmail."

The Indiana Democrat says our continuing reliance on other countries demonstrates a failure in leadership. In mid-March, he told an audience in Georgia that "one of the great challenges of our generation is this whole issue of energy independence. I don’t think we can expect much progress under this administration."

"There was a moment there following [September 11th] where the American people were willing to be summoned to do what it takes to make real progress on this issue," he said.

"I had people stopping me on the streets in Indianapolis...literally they said to me, 'Evan, what can I do? I want to help my country, what can I do?' This president was asked that question in a press conference about a week after the attack. One of the reporters said to him, 'Mr. President, the American people are asking what they can do to help their country.' Any of you remember what the President said? 'Go to the mall, go shopping.' Well, I’m sorry, that’s not leadership, and we can do better than that."

The answer, Bayh says, is legislation he proposed in November that would ultimately reduce the amount of oil Americans use by a third of current daily consumption (see HPR, March 2). In response to an HPR query, Bayh press secretary Meghan Keck pointed out that the list of senators co-sponsoring S.2025 continues to grow, with Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) signing onto the legislation on Monday, bringing the number of co-sponsors to 16.

Sen. Bayh "was encouraged that some of the small steps President Bush called for in his speech this week are already included in his energy plan, but believes that the president should go farther and support his bipartisan legislation," Keck wrote to HPR in an email. "If he did so, it could be law in a matter of weeks."

Indiana's senior Senator, Richard Lugar, is among five Republicans listed as co-sponsors. Lugar, a leading proponent for change in the nation's energy policy, touted the bill during a much-heralded speech at the Brookings Institution March 13, when he said "energy is the albatross of U.S. national security."

"What is needed is an urgent national campaign led by a succession of Presidents and Congresses who will ensure that American ingenuity and resources are fully committed to this problem," Lugar said.

A Declaration Of Energy Independence

On Saturday, Bayh will keynote the North Carolina Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Celebration. As in other recent speeches, Bayh is expected to tell the crowd in Raleigh that America needs a "declaration of energy independence."

"We need to focus like a laser – I think there is a real opportunity here - on the whole energy situation," Bayh told a gathering of Michigan Democrats April 8. "We can create hundreds of thousands of good jobs in this country in the energy sector, including building high-mileage vehicles right here in Detroit, Michigan and across Indiana, if we just dedicate ourselves to doing exactly that."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Time on the road pays off as Bayh banks $10 million

Time on the road pays off as Bayh banks $10 million
For Howey Political Report April 20, 2006

Good news for Sen. Evan Bayh: After several months of relentless touring and fund raising, he has about $10 million in the Senate campaign account which can be applied to a run for the White House should he so choose.

The bad news? It may take up to 10 times that amount just to be considered a serious contender in the primaries, though some strategists say a challenger with "only" $35 to $50 million to spend could win the nomination if early primary victories attracted new donors.

The national election may be more than 30 months away, but the 2008 presidential contest is already shaping up to be the most expensive ever.

$100 Million Entry Fee?

"There is a growing sense that there is going to be a $100 million entry fee at the end of 2007 to be considered a serious candidate," Michael E. Toner, the chairman of the Federal Election Commission, recently told the Washington Post. The newspaper notes that many analysts believe each major-party candidate will need to raise in excess of $400 million before it's all over.

By all measures, the senator is a fund raising success. As noted in the Post, Bayh has devoted more time with donors than any other 2008 candidate, and the $1 million in his All America PAC account combined with the Senate campaign funds puts him ahead of most of the competition. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is said to have $13 million leftover from the 2004 election, but the most notable exception is New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who dominates both fellow Democrats and also the Republicans with a bank book showing $18 million cash on hand.

Doug Muzzio of Baruch College explained to the New York Daily News that Clinton's eye-popping achievements not only demonstrate she can raise money but that she is an outstanding organizer as well.

"She's sending a message to the Mark Warners, the Evan Bayhs, that she's going to be extremely powerful," said Muzzio.

Former Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, who made a fortune as co-founder of Nextel, reportedly has more than $3 million. He raised almost two-thirds of that amount in the first quarter of this year, compared with Bayh's $400,000. Among other Democratic contenders, Sen. Joseph R. Biden of Deleware reports $2.7 million on hand.

Sen. George Allen of Virginia leads the Republicans with $7.2 million, Sen. John McCain reports about $3 million and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani claims almost $300,000.

Hot On The Trail

Indiana's junior senator and former governor continues to zip around the country from one event to the next. Tomorrow Bayh headlines a $500-a-plate dinner in Tampa, Fla., hosted by Democratic consultant Bob Buckhorn. April 29 he will be keynote speaker at the North Carolina Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson celebration.

On Monday, All America PAC announced the senator will be in Indianapolis to speak at the Camp Bayh campaign training program May 12-14, a three-day seminar featuring "national and local political professionals teaching the nuts and bolts of organizing winning campaigns," according to a news release. Similar programs are scheduled for Evansville, May 19-21, and South Bend, July 7-9.

The camp is organized by Grassroots Solutions, a group of political consultants who, according to their website, help build "sustainable volunteer-based grassroots programs." For $40 to cover materials and meals, as many as 100 participants may follow one of three tracks including "Management for Political Veterans/Party Leaders," "Intro to Management for Future Paid Professionals" and "How to be a Better Candidate."

As noted by Maureen Groppe of the Indianapolis Star, the program will help place and pay for graduates in campaigns in Indiana and other states.

Red, Blue & Purple

Understanding Hoosiers may be the key to Democrat's success in the 2008 elections, according to Paul Nussbaum of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A Democrat who understands the pragmatic sensibilities of Indiana may be able to appeal to red-state voters elsewhere, he writes. Evan Bayh, of course, happens to fit the bill.

"If the voters know you and trust you, they'll vote for you regardless of the party," Bayh told Nussbaum. "People in Indiana care about practical things...they want to know, 'How does this affect my life?'"

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Will Voters Trust A Democrat With National Security?

Indiana's Sen. Evan Bayh Hopes To Find Out
For Howey Political Report April 13, 2006

Increasing pessimism about the future of Iraq has led many Democrats to think what seemed unthinkable not so long ago: Republicans may be vulnerable on the issue of national security.

Democratic prospects for mid-term elections improve as President Bush's ratings continue to tank in poll after poll. For the first time, a Pew survey last month found fewer than half believe success is probable in Iraq, and last week, three different polls found better than 60 percent said they disapprove of the president's handling of the war. A recent Fox News survey which stated three of every four surveyed agree Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein also found that more than half of respondents do not think U.S. efforts will produce "a free, stable government" and only one in three believe the U.S. will succeed in Iraq.

National security features prominently in Sen. Evan Bayh's message as he criss crosses the country to enlist support for a possible run at the White House in 2008. He says voters must be convinced Democrats will safeguard American interests if the party is to win back either branch of government.

"[T]his is the right issue for us to address because it's going to continue to be a threshold issue for the American people and particularly the Democratic party as we move forward," Sen. Bayh said during a press conference on the topic, conducted in Washington last week with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

An 'In-Your-Face-Taunt'

"Democrats smelling blood in November's elections had an in-your-face taunt for President Bush's political sage Karl Rove yesterday," was how the New York Daily News described Bayh's press conference under the heading "Dems spike security football in RNC's face."

While GOP leaders say they are unconcerned, Fox News reported Monday that voter worries about Iraq and the president's ability to conduct the war on terror could hurt party candidates at the polls.

"That's the great danger of the Republican candidates," Larry Sabato told Fox. "If the president's popularity is low come November, there will be a substantial turnover and the Republicans will lose seats."

For now it seems Bayh has convinced his party's leaders that Democrats can win the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans, though not everyone agrees on the substance of a plan to do so. At a media event in Washington on March 29, Democrats Sen. Harry Reid, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Gen. Wesley Clark, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and others (Bayh was absent) convened to announce a "Real Security" proposal they described as "smart and tough," a phrase Indiana's senator first inserted into speeches months ago.

Republicans countered that the opposition's plan was heavy on sound bites and light on substance, reiterating a message disseminated in large and small media markets across the country.

As he did last Friday at the Michigan Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Detroit, Bayh is expected to continue to highlight security whenever he is among his party's faithful. Following an appearance Tuesday at Harvard Business School's Democrats Speakers series, he is slated to keynote the North Carolina J-J fete April 29.

What Was Right At The Time

Sen. Bayh also must work to overcome opposition to his ideas inside the party. The same polls that boosted Democratic hopes also served to re-invigorate those who protested the Iraq war from the beginning, and who are now pointing fingers at office-holders who supported the invasion. In a nearly 8,000-word interview recently conducted with the Washington Post Insider, Bayh was asked if he ever had any doubts about voting to invade Iraq.

"I did what I thought was right at the time based on the facts as I understood them at the time," Bayh said. "It turned out some of those facts weren't accurate, so of course you'd make different decisions."

The Insider pressed for details about how Bayh might approach the Iraq problem.

"I do think you'll see fewer American forces in Iraq at the end of this year than we did in the beginning with the prospect of even fewer the year after that," he said. "I would envision our involvement being a lot less patrolling the streets, providing security out in the communities, more confined to the kind of things they can't do for themselves; air coverage support, logistical support, those kinds of things.

"That's what [I would] envision us transitioning to here, hopefully sooner rather than later. But it' to be driven by reality as we understand it, not by our hopes alone."