Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bayh plans 500-mile odyssey across Iowa next week

Bayh plans 500-mile odyssey across Iowa next week

For Howey Political Report June 29, 2006

Next Thursday Evan Bayh will launch a 500-mile odyssey to convince Democratic voters in Iowa that his centrist brand will best represent their party in the next presidential election.

It will be the senator's second trip to the Hawkeye State in seven weeks and his fifth in the past 12 months. More are expected in anticipation of the state's Democratic caucuses in January 2008.

Since Jimmy Carter's initial caucus victory in 1976, Iowa has been a key state in the race for the Democratic nomination, according to Wikipedia, which notes "[t]he national and international media give Iowa (and New Hampshire) about half of all the attention accorded the national candidate selection process, which gives [Iowa's] voters enormous leverage."

Poor showing can mean disaster

Of the past nine candidates to run for president under the Democratic banner, six were winners in Iowa, including incumbents Clinton (unopposed in 1996) and Carter (who defeated Ted Kennedy in 1980). Other than in 1992, when Iowa's own Tom Harkin won the state in a bid that was largely unchallenged, a poor showing in the caucuses has spelled disaster for aspiring campaigns. That same year Bill Clinton eventually secured his first nomination despite earning only three percent of the Iowa vote. In 1988, Michael Dukakis finished third with a respectable 22 percent and in 1972 George McGovern finished second with 23 percent.

If a recent poll conducted by the Des Moines Register is any indication, the senator has yet to connect with the state's voters. On June 11, the Register reported Bayh's supporters amounted to only two percent of Iowans who say they are likely to take part in the caucuses. John Edwards finished first at 30 percent, besting Hillary Clinton by four points. "None of these/other" notched three percent and "Not sure" received six percent (see HPR Daily Wire, June 12).

Edwards' showing created a stir because Hillary is often mentioned as the party's leading presidential contender. But pundits were otherwise hesitant to give much weight to a survey so far ahead of the election. However, one aspect of the poll may inspire Bayh to step up his appearances and work harder to deliver an evocative message - more than two-thirds (68 percent) of Iowa's probable Democratic voters indicated they were unsure about Bayh, the highest number of the nine potential candidates tested.

Connecting with voters

To succeed in Iowa, the senator will have to identify and understand what motivates the state's persuadable voters.

According to the Pew Research Center, "Democratic registered voters in Iowa and New Hampshire...are much less racially and ethnically diverse than the party as a whole, and may be slightly less conservative. But they are similar to Democrats nationally in terms of labor union affiliation, religion, age, and education."

Veteran Iowa political reporter Ed Tibbetts offered another perspective. "Ever since the 2004 presidential election, the 'values voter' has been much coveted," he wrote in a Quad-City Times article published prior to the state's June 6 primary. In the report on one of the most hotly contested congressional seats in the nation, Iowa's 1st CD, Tibbitt said he expects values voters to be critical in this year's midterms.

During his three day, eight-city tour next week, Sen. Bayh will have an opportunity to appeal to 1st CD voters at a stop in the Quad-Cities. On July 7, he is slated to boost the campaign of Democratic hopeful Bruce Braley, who is battling the GOP's Mike Whalen for the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle, the Republican now running for governor.

Iowa, Indiana share values

The last time Bayh was in Iowa - only seven weeks ago - he assured a crowd of Polk County Democrats that he shared their values.

"I love coming back to Iowa," Bayh said at a fundraiser. "It’s so much like my home state. You’ve got the same values, the same dreams, the same kind of economy. I just feel right at home."

Bayh often refers to faith when giving public speeches. At the Georgia state Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in March (see HPR, March 16) he said Democrats "need to remind [voters] that we share their values, the great American values, of hope and opportunity and patriotism and faith. We take a second place to no one when it comes to that kind of thing, and in fact, we have more in common with people of faith than they’ve been led to believe."

Indiana's former governor, an Episcopalian, was even more forthright as featured speaker at the national conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., in March (see HPR, March 9).

"I believe, deep in my heart, that the United States and Israel are exceptional nations; and, have been placed upon this earth to achieve humanity’s highest aspirations. And if we do not tire, if we do not cease, if we carry on with our labors through thick and thin, it is my deepest conviction that one day we will know the blessing of a benevolent God, known by many names in many faiths and many traditions."

Supported flag amendment

Earlier this week Sen. Bayh voted in support of Senate legislation which called for a constitutional amendment banning desecration of the American flag. The proposal was defeated when it fell one vote short of the necessary 67 required to advance. Of the 16 Democrats who supported the amendment, Bayh was the only one currently considered a presidential contender. The five Democratic senators thought to be in competition with Bayh were opposed.

"This is an important issue, and I understand how people have differences of opinion on it," he said. "I support giving the flag special protection because it is the symbol of our country and out of respect for the sacrifice of our servicemen and women."

In other legislative news from the past week, the senator's office noted:

• The Senate passed a Defense Authorization bill that included an amendment authored by Bayh;

• Bayh joined 25 colleagues in a letter urging the Senate to "secure $8 million to triple the number of E-85 pumps available at gas stations nationwide";

• The senator also joined an effort supported by 57 senators to urge "the Bush Administration to defend U.S. access to foreign agriculture markets during World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations";

• He co-sponsored two bills to provide greater identity theft protection for veterans and active duty military personnel; and,

• Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy (VT) and Ted Kennedy (MA) have signed on in support of Bayh's hallmark energy legislation, the Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act, bringing the number of co-sponsors to 28.

Iowa schedule

July 6: Des Moines event honoring Iowa Democratic State House and Senate Campaign Committees; and, Dallas County event with Selden Spencer, 4th CD candidate.

July 7: Clinton event with State Sen. Roger Stewart and Rep. Polly Bukta; and, Scott County event with Bruce Braley, 1st CD candidate.

July 8: Muscatine event with State Rep. Nathan Reichert; Burlington event with State Sen. Tom Courtney; Iowa City event with Dave Loebsack, 2nd CD candidate; and, Cedar Rapids event to honor Democratic State House challengers.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Debate over Iraq amendments will shape Democratic platform

Debate over Iraq amendments
will shape Democratic platform

For Howey Political Report, June 22, 2006

For months now, Evan Bayh has insisted that the Democratic Party must assert its national security credentials if it is ever to regain the Congress or White House. Today may be the day.

Today, the Senate is expected to vote on a pair of amendments sponsored by Democrats that call for the U.S. to begin a withdrawal from Iraq. Both are opposed by the controlling Republican Party and there is little chance either will pass. But the debate is certain to play a defining role in this year's midterm elections and possibly even impact the run-up to the 2008 presidential race.

Republicans have remained largely unified and on-message. They say the opposition party is proposing that America "cut and run" from Iraq by imposing an "arbitrary" timeline for withdrawal. Democrats, on the other hand, are divided about when and how the war should end. As a result, they have as yet been unable to communicate a strategy that appeals to the wide range of voters who have indicated they are increasingly pessimistic about the war.

Any common ground?

Yet it is possible that today's vote may eventually bring Democrats closer together as they openly air differences and seek common ground.

Senate Democrats by and large are critical of the prosecution of the war and both amendments propose U.S. operations be scaled back. But the party's leadership is opposed to an amendment offered by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) that calls for establishing a fixed date (July 2007) for troop departure. The leadership is supporting instead a less specific, non-binding resolution proposed by Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Carl M. Levin (D-MI). As noted in the Washington Post, their amendment calls for the president "to begin a 'phased redeployment' of U.S. troops by the end of this year. But it does not specify how quickly the drawdown should proceed or when it should be completed."

If any Democrat in the Senate knows what voters expect from their representatives in Washington concerning Iraq, it's Evan Bayh. In this year alone, he has frequented New Hampshire and Iowa and has also met with fellow Democrats in Georgia, Michigan, Florida, California, Indiana and North Carolina, to name a few. His vote will be closely watched by numerous interested parties.

Bayh has established his own credentials on Iraq over the past few years. He supported the 2003 invasion, a vote that more recently has earned him the wrath of some in his party.

"I did what I thought was right at the time based on the facts as I understood them at the time," Bayh told the Washington Post Insider in February of this year (see HPR, April 13). "It turned out some of those facts weren't accurate, so of course you'd make different decisions."

Called for Rumsfeld to resign

About two years ago he made headlines by criticizing what he termed the administration's mishandling of the war and calling for the immediate resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. But it was at a speech this February, when he injected the phrase "tough and smart" into the debate, that the senator began to be widely recognized for his comments on national security (Schoeff, HPR Daily Wire, Feb. 3).

"George W. Bush's saying he wants the 2006 election to be about national security is like Herbert Hoover proudly claiming that the 1930 election should be a referendum on the economy," Bayh said in the widely reported speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"[T]here is absolutely no question the war has been prosecuted with stunning incompetence," he said. "We never had enough troops to secure that country. It's obvious they had no plan for winning the peace."

HPR's Mark Schoeff, Jr., wrote at the time that Bayh said a "tough and smart" approach to Iraq would "establish benchmarks for success, a timeline for progress, accountability for results and candor about how we are doing."

It was on ABC's This Week that Bayh let it be known he had come to the conclusion that there was "no military answer" to Iraq (Howey, HPR Daily Wire, April 17).

Need for deadline

"There may be a political solution, so yes, I think we need to give [the Iraqi government] a hard deadline for making their political decisions," Bayh said. "If they don't do that, there's nothing we can do to help them. By focusing on the security solution, perhaps we can avoid the chaos of a civil war."

HPR Publisher Brian Howey noted that Bayh said a deadline for troop withdrawal "needs to be a private discussion" with Iraqi leaders, who should be told "If you don't make the hard political decisions, we are going to leave at a time and manner that is most convenient for us."

However he votes today, the senator will have plenty of opportunity in the months ahead to elaborate his position. His next scheduled appearance is June 30 at a fundraiser in Illinois' 10th Congressional District, and he most certainly will be visiting Iowa and New Hampshire again over the course of the summer. He will have to counter Republican claims that a withdrawal would amount to a surrender in the war on terror. And, he will face complaints from within the party concerning his initial support of the war. But perhaps somewhere along the line today's debate will prompt Democrats to succeed in crafting a message on Iraq that is agreeable to many in its famously splintered base.

Why the party lost

About a month ago Bayh joined a widely publicized conference on national security sponsored by the Progressive Policy Institute.

"If you ask me why we lost the last presidential election, I'd say more than anything else, it was because of our perceived problems with national security, broadly defined, and the war on terror, more specifically," he said then. "And so that is a place that we need to get to. We can be both good on domestic policy but also strong and smart on national security policy. The two must go hand in hand."

"God forbid there might be something in this country that will remind the American people that it is a dangerous world. And we need parties and leaders who are prepared and capable of dealing with it, not a world as we wish it is - as we wish it was, even though we work toward that objective - but a world as it is that regrettably has evil people in it who wish us ill, and we have to be deal with that."

To visit New Orleans tomorrow

Sen. Bayh is scheduled to leave tomorrow to visit New Orleans, where he will meet with local officials to discuss the federal government's emergency response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster and to hear comments about subsequent funding issues. The senator's office also indicated he will meet with owners of small businesses and others in keeping with Bayh's role on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

For Better Or Worse: Bayh At The Marriage Of Internet & Politics

For Better Or Worse: Bayh At The Marriage Of Internet & Politics

For Howey Political Report June 15, 2006

"I used to think that the best feature of the Internet is that it let the common man have his say. Now I realize that it's that we can laugh at those idiots who do." - June 26, 2004 entry at "Journal of chromatic (983)" online

For better or worse, success in politics today goes hand in paw with an effective internet strategy. Tread carefully. The beast online is often hungry and easily angered.

In theory, at least, the internet is a boon to the common man. The powerful instrument for democracy that is the world wide web offers equal voice to anyone with access to a keyboard and an internet connection. These days, anyone means almost everyone. In 2005, the number of Americans considered to be active internet users by Nielsen//NetRatings amounted to 143 million, or almost half of the population.

"In eight years between the 1996 and 2004 presidential campaigns the number of Americans relying on the Internet for political news grew sixfold," the IT Observer reported. Gallup indicated that in 2004 one in five of us depended on the internet as our main source of news.

A force to be reckoned with

Clearly a force to be reckoned with, but how? Politicians are asking themselves the same question.

"While the Internet is not a fresh phenomenon in politics - who can forget the rise and fall of Howard Dean in the 2004 presidential campaign? - a more sophisticated chapter is opening," wrote Jeff Zeleny in the June 11th issue of the Chicago Tribune. "Republicans and Democrats agree that emerging technologies will almost certainly rewrite the rules of American politics, much as television did four decades ago."

Last weekend Indiana's Sen. Evan Bayh visited New Hampshire to gauge and foster support for an increasingly likely run at the White House in 2008. But, while Sen. Bayh ducked the rain and cold weather up north, several other contenders for the Democratic nomination were in Las Vegas romancing the new kid in school - Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, or the Kos.

Moulitsas, purveyor of the internet's most popular liberal blog site the Daily Kos, is said to command a following numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Decidedly from the left wing of the Democratic Party, Kos was described as "the No. 1 Web dispensary of vitriol, vituperation and abuse of George W.," by conservative columnist Wesley Pruden of the Washington Times.

Old and new media, conservative and liberal alike pay close attention to goings-on at the Daily Kos. Many reporters, including Pruden, were in attendance last weekend when some 1,000 like-minded bloggers turned out for the first ever Yearly Kos convention. The gathering in Sin City was described in a New York Times editorial as "the mainstream debut of 'internet-powered politics.'" Well-known democrats asking for a chance at the dance included Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, retired Gen. Wesley Clark and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Yet to make his mark

Despite the hard work of a dedicated few, Indiana's former governor has yet to leave much of an imprint on the blogosphere. That may be about to change, according to Meghan Keck, the senator's press secretary.

"[Sen.] Bayh believes the Internet is a critical part of political outreach in the 21st century," Keck told HPR in an emal. "He posts entries on national blogs, such as the Huffington Post, and will do more of that in the future, and the [All America PAC] sends several emails each month with updates on his recent efforts.

"In addition, the All America PAC will be rolling out a new PAC website in the coming days to better help leading candidates across the country, and has a new staffer who will oversee Internet outreach and serve as an online organizer."

Ryan Alexander is the PAC's new online organizer/blogger. On Tuesday he sent an email to Bayh supporters explaining the new website "will allow us to add a host of interactive features for members of the netroots to interact with Senator Bayh and the All America PAC community."

Finding the center

Any effort to capture and retain the loyalty of potential voters via the internet could serve to help Bayh and the party moderate the leftward pull exerted by the Kos. Yesterday, Bayh blogger and Indiana resident Rob at Confessions of a Hoosier Democrat published these thoughts on the matter.

"Kos and his band of merry men seem to make it a sport to try to tear down any Democrat who doesn't fit the mold they've established," Rob wrote. "If you don't think the same way they do in any number of different areas then you aren't a 'true Democrat.'"

Rob told HPR that he became excited about Bayh when the senator was mentioned as a potential vice president candidate in the last two elections.

"I know Sen. Bayh is a good man with great ideas," he wrote in an email to HPR. Rob has been interested in politics since he was president of the University Democrats while attending Ball State about a dozen years ago.

"I consider myself a moderate," according to his latest blog entry. "I don't believe we should pull out troops out now. I don't believe that Bush should be impeached unless we have ironclad concrete proof he's violated a law. I believe Evan Bayh, Harold Ford and other moderate Democrats ARE good Democrats. Because I believe those things I don't fit into Kos's Democratic Party. That's sad."

Marie operates two websites, Americans for Bayh and Hoosier Democrats. The 1979 graduate of Indiana University told HPR that she started "a very meager blog" in the 2004 election.

"It occured to me that the blog medium might be an opportunity to correct misinformation and get views that were not being shared in the media to those who where interested in the truth," she stated in an email.

Spread the good word

"The goal is to get the positive news about Senator Bayh on the net. At first it was a struggle to find anything on the blogs. Only a few bloggers were talking about Bayh, that's changed in the past year and now Bayh is mentioned somewhere on a blog daily. It's been a fun process."

"So if any one wonders if their little blog can make a difference the answer is 'YES,'" Marie said. "The more people write about Bayh and publish the more will come up on search engines about Bayh and his accomplishments both as a U.S. senator and Indiana's governor. "

Not all Hoosier blogs are positive about Sen. Bayh, of course. Yesterday, the online Indiana Blog Review linked to two such entries. One was an entry by Matt Tully of the Indianapolis Star who reported on the senator's poor showing in a poll of Iowa democrats. "Bayh needs to find a way to start moving up the list," Tully wrote. "For starters, perhaps he can at least start beating 'none of these.'"

Unhappy blog

Bill Browning of the LGBT blog Bilerico was critical of the senator's response to a question posed during a gathering of Hoosier bloggers hosted by Bayh. "I get the distinct impression that the good Senator's office has avoided answering my question" about the state constitutional amendment to outlaw civil marriage for gays and lesbians, his entry stated. "As far as presidential contenders, Bayh is no Dennis Kucinich or Russ Feingold," Browning wrote. "Although with a recent Iowa poll showing Bayh running behind 'None of These,' do we really have to worry about a Bayh presidential bid much longer?"

Ouch. No one said the relationship would be easy. The whole idea of the lunch, according to Keck, Bayh's press rep, was to give the senator "the opportunity to learn more about the issues and ideas that local bloggers are interested in and to introduce himself to some of the Hoosiers who cover politics on their blogs." Although Bilerico was not the only blogger who complained after the Bayh meeting (see HPR, May 25), most reports were favorable.

Now Sen. Bayh faces a dilemma. He must somehow enlist support for moderate policies via an internet currently dominated by a camp the Times' Pruden described as "so far out in the solar system, somewhere beyond Pluto, that Hillary Clinton is regarded as the ruling goddess of the vast right-wing media conspiracy."

So far, Evan Bayh has orchestrated a remarkably successful movement in terms of fundraising (third among democrats) and organization (he's assembled an all-star cast). Veteran pundits like Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post note that as the hardest-working potential Democratic candidate he's made many of the right moves. His frequent trips to Iowa and New Hampshire come to mind. But it looks quite possible that bloggers like Marie and Rob, and staffers like Ryan Alexander, will play an increasingly important role if the senator is to have the opportunity to walk down the aisle during the next presidential election.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bayh looks to connect with New Hampshire democrats

Bayh looks to connect with New Hampshire democrats

For Howey Political Report June 8, 2006

It's going to be a cold and wet weekend in New Hampshire but indications are Sen. Evan Bayh can expect a warm welcome Friday and Saturday as he attends six events in five cities.

Sen. Bayh is making his second visit in less than three months to gauge and foster support for an increasingly likely run for the White House. Of course, he is not the only presidential aspirant traversing the Granite State these days. Colin Manning, statehouse reporter for the Foster's Daily Democrat in Dover told HPR at least four other democrats will tour New Hampshire in the coming days, while Salon reports that two others were well-received last weekend.

Friday, Indiana's former governor lunches downstate with local elected officials in Manchester before attending a Democratic dinner 100 miles upstate in Bartlett. The next day Bayh starts out with a late morning reception a dozen miles from the seacoast in Rollinsford and then heads west for a lunchtime event in Concord. His journey ends in the city of Keene, population 23,000, which serves as the seat of government for Cheshire County located in the state's southwest corner.

Keene is a great place for the second-term senator to make a name for himself, according to Manning, who has been covering the statehouse for three years.

Democratic stronghold

"Cheshire County is probably the one county in the state where there are more registered democrats than republicans," he said.

Bayh will appear at two events in Keene to launch the state senate campaign of Hoosier-born Molly Kelly, described by Manning as "an up and comer" with the potential to regain a seat held by GOP Sen. Thomas R. Eaton through four terms.

"A lot of democrats think they can win that one back," Manning said.

"It's just so wonderful that Sen. Bayh is coming out here," Kelly told HPR. She left home in Fort Wayne at age 21 more than two dozen years ago and ended up marrying and raising a family in New Hampshire.

"All my life I've been in politics," she said. Her parents were very involved in civil rights and the Vietnam war movement. "I always had the opportunity to meet wonderful, wonderful thinkers and people who cared about the community. People like Birch Bayh."

Area democrats know who Evan Bayh is, Kelly said, noting he "is a very big draw."

A real kickoff

"This is a real kickoff for me," she said, indicating Bayh's appearance will help her with name recognition and "to get the excitement going," especially for an evening fundraiser expected to draw about 75 supporters. Many will take advantage of the opportunity to size up Sen. Bayh.

"This would not happen if not for the senator coming here," she said, noting later in the interview, "You can send a check or you can come to a reception with Sen. Bayh, so that's great."

Bayh is "definitely generating some news" and is "pretty well received here," said Manning. When asked for his impression of the candidate, the reporter recalled hearing Bayh address the New Hampshire delegation at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. "He seemed like a pretty well-polished guy. Other than that I don't remember too much about him. Well-polished, well-spoken, articulate."

Manning was most interested in the reception for state Sen. Iris Estabrook in Rollinsford, which falls into the Daily Democrat's coverage area.

"I know [Sen. Estabrook] is very excited about that fundraiser," the reporter said.

Quid pro quo

'"It's a quid pro quo kind of thing," Manning said. "[Bayh] gets to come into the state and stump for the democrats at the same time he's trying to raise his name ID for a possible presidential election.

"At the same time he is a national figure, he is known in the state and can attract some democrats and some money for Sen. Estabrook in a district that is very friendly to democrats. And that's a good place for him to make a lot of inroads, too, on the seacoast of New Hampshire, which is highly Democratic and went huge for John Kerry and with Gov. [John] Lynch (D) in the last election."

This sort of travel is hard work, and no other 2008 contender works harder at it than Sen. Evan Bayh. Last weekend he conducted a top-to-bottom tour of Indiana to promote energy legislation. The weekend before that he was navigating Iowa in much the same way he will crisscross New Hampshire. And the weekend before that he was in Indiana to address the state Democratic Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.

Pundits of all stripes are taking note. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post's blog The Fix wrote in the June 2nd entry, "We've long maintained that Indiana Sen. Bayh will surprise some people in '08. He and his campaign team continue to make smart - and often overlooked - moves that should pay dividends down the line." That same day, MSNBC's Tom Curry said on on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" that he "found a lot of interest in Evan Bayh" during a trip to Iowa. The Washington Times of May 30 reported that Bayh was among the three potential Democractic presidential candidates who "most worry" former Republican House Speaker Newt Gringrich.

Worries Gringrich

"Either [former Virginia] Gov. Mark Warner or [Indiana] Sen. Evan Bayh have a lot to offer the Democratic Party because they're more moderate," Gringrich told the Times, although he predicted that either would have a very tough time beating New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the nomination.

According to Walter Shapiro of Salon, Warner was accorded "rock-star status" at the New Hampshire Democratic convention last weekend, and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) "earned" a half-dozen standing ovations during a "fiery" breakfast speech.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) is touring the state today, Manning, the statehouse reporter, told HPR. On Wednesday, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack visits, followed next weekend by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE).

"Bill Clinton is coming to the state on June 27th to do a fundraiser with the governor's wife on childhood obesity," Manning said. "You have to think he's laying the groundwork for Sen. Clinton's run at the presidency."

Will he connect?

No matter how the Democratic candidate selection schedule shakes out for 2008, it appears a strong showing in the New Hampshire primaries or Iowa caucuses will be critical if Sen. Bayh is to become widely accepted as one who can win the White House. One big question - will his views connect with voters in these two states?

HPR asked Molly Kelly what issues are important to her campaign.

"I really feel like the state and probably the nation - we know the nation as well - right now is very polarized and negative," she said. "We need leadership in the [state] Senate that can work across party lines, bring people together, communicate and work together and really find solutions and results. That's what I'm good at and that's what I intend to do."

When this writer pointed out that Sen. Bayh often makes a similar statement during campaign speeches, Kelly replied:

"I know and that's great and he is very successful."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bayh Talks Energy, Ads Talk Marriage Amendment

Bayh Talks Energy, Ads Talk Marriage Amendment
For Howey Political Report June 1, 2006

Sen. Evan Bayh winds up a two-day, eight-city tour across the state today to acquaint Hoosiers with particulars of an energy plan that his office said "outlines an economic roadmap for Indiana to become the capital of the new energy economy."

After serving as keynote speaker this morning at the Indianapolis Business Journal's Business Growth Strategies summit beginning at 8:30 a.m. (ET), the senator is slated to appear at a Jiffy Mini-Mart in Terre Haute two hours later, then visit the Evansville Transit Center at 11:15 (CT) before stopping by Hap's Aerial at the Jeffersonville airport early this afternoon.

Yesterday he visited Gary, South Bend, Fort Wayne and Lafayette.

Tom Coyne of the Associated Press wrote that during an appearance at the New Energy Corp. ethanol plant in South Bend, Bayh indicated "The United States needs to take a similar approach to solving its dependency on oil as it did in putting a man on the moon."

Bayh’s Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act aims to cut oil consumption some 10 million barrels per day over 25 years, in part by boosting production and consumption of alternative fuels, including ethanol, and offering incentives to produce and purchase electric drive and alternative motor vehicles. The bill would also raise vehicle fuel efficiency standards, order the federal and state governments to reduce fleet petroleum consumption by nearly a third and increase funding for research and development. (See HPR, April 27)

No more Mideast oil

Bayh has said in recent speeches that his bill would completely eliminate the need to import oil from the Middle East within 10 years. He also has insisted that the nation's energy challenge can be made into "a real opportunity" for American businesses and workers.

"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," Bayh told Michigan democrats in April

VK Sharma, director of engineering for International Truck in Fort Wayne, told Victoria Edwards of the News-Sentinel yesterday that Bayh's legislation "will bring economic growth to Indiana, and provides the economic blueprint to build Indiana into the new energy economy."

Family matters

While Bayh has been out stumping for legislation that senators on both sides of the aisle say will help solve America's energy problem, Focus on Family Action has put together an advertising campaign in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment that asks "Why Doesn't Senator Bayh Believe Every Child Needs a Mother and a Father."

According to Focus on the Family Action Media Representative Christopher Norfleet, the ads ran yesterday in the Indianapolis Star, South Bend Tribune and Evansville Courier-Press. Radio ads also played on stations in those same cities as well as in Fort Wayne and Bloomington.

The half-page ad that appeared on Page A9 of yesterday's Star featured a freckle-faced boy cupping his hands to his cheeks and looking quizzically at the camera. "Every child understands how important a mom and a dad are," the ad copy reads. "But apparently Sen. Bayh needs a reminder."

For comment, HPR contacted a representative of Indiana Equality, a coalition of Hoosier organizations with the stated mission of "ensuring basic human rights for Indiana's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens."

'Divisive and unnecessary'

Indiana Equality Communications Chair Jerame Davis wrote in an email that "The divisive and unnecessary federal constitutional amendment- which failed overwhelmingly when last brought before Congress - would ban not only same-sex civil marriage, but also any 'legal incident of marriage' for unmarried couples - both straight and gay. This proposal, like the one that will be considered by the Indiana General Assembly in 2007, undercuts equal protection, threatening every government-enforced protection and every vestige of first-class citizenship for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Hoosiers."

John Clower, who chairs the organization, stated "Hoosiers, along with the rest of our country's citizens, face great challenges today - record high gas prices, an endless and costly war in Iraq, and skyrocketing health care costs that are bankrupting families and businesses

"Instead of addressing these real challenges, the Republican leadership in Congress and the Indiana General Assembly has chosen to put politics ahead of real progress by debating a divisive amendment on marriage," continued Clower. "The last thing Hoosiers want are legislators reaching into a family's private life."

Sen. Bayh told a group of Indiana bloggers last week that his opposition to the current federal amendment is based on constitutional grounds. He also voted against a previous Federal Marriage Amendment which failed to pass the Senate in July 2004.

Not a simple sound bite

It's difficult to reduce the senator's position to a headline or a simple sound bite. In response to an HPR query, the senator's office emailed the following statement:

"Senator Bayh does not support same-sex marriage. He thinks marriage should be between one man and one woman. That is currently the law in Indiana and the law nationally. He also believes that the Constitution should only be amended when absolutely necessary, not because of hypothetical situations that may or may not come to pass. If the Supreme Court ever strikes down the state or national laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, then he believes that a Constitutional amendment should be considered."

Despite the fact he does not support same sex marriage, Bayh is consistently rated high on GLBT issues by the Human Rights Campaign, which describes itself as "America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality." In ranking the Congress before the 2004 election, HRC scored Bayh at 75, compared with 88 for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) or 17 for Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN).

Earlier this year Bayh announced Congress had passed legislation on his first bill in the Senate, the Responsible Fatherhood Act, which will provide funding for state and private organizations to establish responsible fatherhood workshops. "As a father, Senator Bayh understands that strong families are crucial to our children’s future success," reads an item entitled "Fatherhood" on his website at, and the senator often weaves family into his discussions of today's most pressing issues when he takes to the stump.

"You know, enabling all our children to overcome the obstacles that have been placed in their way, to help them fulfill their God-given potential, that has to be our cause," he said earlier this month at the Indiana Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. "Our cause has got to be a little girl who came up to me in Valparaiso a few years back. It was at an early childhood development center. It was a step ahead program, all the programs in that community gathered together to help little girls like that. She had a frilly dress on and bright blue eyes and she threw her arms around me and looked into my face and she broke my heart. Because she looked up at me and said, 'Will you be my daddy?' She lost her father and her mother lived in an institution. You know, thinking of reaching out to girls like that and helping them make the most of what God may have to offer them, helping them carve out a future and have a tomorrow and let them know they’re not being left by themselves, but that we all care as much about them as we do our own. That must be our cause in these elections."