Thursday, September 28, 2006

After 14 trips and 30 days, Bayh trails in N.H., Iowa

After 14 trips and 30 days, Bayh trails in N.H., Iowa

For Howey Political Report Sept. 28, 2006

Since July 2005, Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh has racked up a total of almost 30 days visiting two states considered key to winning his party's presidential nomination.

Last weekend the senator made his fifth trip to New Hampshire and tomorrow he begins his ninth tour of Iowa. According to Democracy In Action statistics, only one other Democrat, John Edwards, has invested more time in both states.

It was a busy week for the New Hampshire Democratic Party with no fewer than five presidential contenders romancing voters at one point or another somewhere in the state. The list of rival suitors included Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.); Govs. Tom Vilsack (Iowa) and Bill Richardson (N.M.), and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner.

A two-day swing through the state began on a fortuitous note for Bayh when the Associated Press disseminated an article on Sunday wherein he asserted that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism.

"Iraq is taking the focus away from Afghanistan and Iran," he told reporter Norma Love. "We've diverted so many resources to Iraq." The 500-word article went on to mention the senator's contention that the U.S. needs to begin the process of leaving Iraq by stabilizing the country so more focus can be placed on Afghanistan and Iran.

"We need to say we're not going to be there forever," he said.

Sunday night the former Indiana governor appeared at a "Countdown to Victory" dinner hosted by the Manchester City Democrats. Bayh said his party needs to do a better job of standing up to Republicans on national security and pocketbook issues, according to Riley Yates of the Union Leader. He also presented the group with a check for $5,000.

Bayh's message earned a warm reception among the 125 in attendance, and news reports of appearances in Nashua and North Hampton were also favorable.

Tomorrow the centrist Democrat is slated to begin a four-day schedule in Iowa with a Friday evening event at the Boone County Brown-Woodard Dinner. Saturday evening he will attend a reception honoring Dubuque County Democrats. Sunday begins with a breakfast for U.S. House candidate Phil Hare in Rock Island, Ill. Bayh will then attend a reception for Scott County Democrats in Davenport, a Get Out The Vote Rally in Coralville, and an appearance in Ankeny on behalf of the local candidate for state senate. Monday he is slated to appear at separate venues for state senate candidates in Mason City, Cedar Falls, Webster City and Fort Dodge.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, another Democrat considered a potential presidential candidate, is also slated to appear in Iowa over the weekend. Obama will campaign in Davenport for Bruce Baley, who is running for a seat in the U.S. House. This will be his second visit to the Hawkeye State - the first generated reams of publicity earlier this month.

Dan Pfeiffer, Bayh's communications director, told HPR the senator's presentation throughout Iowa will be similar to what he offered Democrats in Manchester last weekend. According to the Union Leader's coverage of that event, Bayh discussed healthcare, education, economic priorities and the need for Democrats to counter the consistent and politically successful GOP message.

Despite Sen. Bayh's extraordinary efforts, indications are he has yet to win Democrats in the numbers required to finish well in the early contests.

In last Monday's Union Leader, Yates cited State Sen. Lou D'Allesandro who said the Indiana Democrat is not among the first tier of potential candidates.

"I think Bayh's right behind them, but he is behind them," D'Allesandro said.

Bayh has implied he intends to make up his mind about a run over the coming Thanksgiving holiday. Fortunately for him plenty of time remains to try and make up deficits in the polls should he choose to seek the nomination.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Will Bayh deliver Indiana in the midterms?

Will Bayh deliver Indiana in the midterms?

For Howey Political Report Sept. 21, 2006

Will Evan Bayh deliver Indiana in the midterms?

For years now Sen. Bayh has been traveling all across this great land promising to deliver Democratic victory in Red State America. That time has come.

Voters in Indiana's 2nd, 8th and 9th Congressional Districts are now high-value targets in the midterm battle over control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Polls indicate these three districts are teetering away from Republicans, who are struggling to maintain a 15-seat margin in Washington. HPR rates all three as "tossup."

Time and money factor mightily in any political scrape, more so in the close ones. Dollars are flooding in from out of state. Candidates, staff and volunteers are on the march. Party leaders are mustering the faithful and recruiting the undecideds. According to Jack Colwell of the South Bend Tribune, "Indiana has become the Florida or Ohio in this national election."

There are rumors of another presidential visit, and why not? The stakes are considerable. At the national level voters are worried about such issues as Iraq, terrorism, immigration and the economy. Put healthcare, state spending and education near the top of that list and you've also described Hoosier concerns going into the elections.

Candidates fighting for every ballot will look for all the help they can get. While Republicans have turned to the likes of the president, vice president and even Barbara Bush, many Democrats will seek the support of Sen. Bayh, one of the most popular politicians in the state. The junior senator has donated as much as $10,000 to several candidates as well as $25,000 to the state party, but it's his popularity with Hoosier voters that may prove to be his greatest asset in this election. A SurveyUSA poll conducted in early August found Bayh's fav/unfav rating at 57/36. The breakdown indicated he is especially popular with Democrats (71/26), independents (55/36), moderates (70/25) and liberals (58/35).

"He is in fact a popular figure," said Russell Hanson, a professor of political science at Indiana University in Bloomington. "In fact the 8th and 9th districts are close to his old home base in politics. He has connections. He has political appeal that if he was there in person, campaigning with that person, it would be to the advantage of a candidate, I should think."

Hanson pointed out that so far many Hoosiers haven't heard much from Bayh in terms of appearances or fundraising.

"From where I sit, which is in the 9th district, he's not been seen or heard in a way that would benefit the candidate," the professor said. "Maybe he's holding that back for later in the campaign. It is still fairly early for the campaign. It may be just a matter of timing, but we certainly have seen any number of high-level national figures come to Indiana to work with candidates here, and I have not seen Evan Bayh at any rate."

That's about to change. According to a first-hand account, Sen. Bayh told a group of New York Democrats earlier this week that he has set aside the month of October "to getting the Dem congressional candidates elected in Indiana...." (Dansac, Daily Kos). The senator's office isn't releasing any details but confirmed he plans to campaign for Indiana candidates in the state as election day approaches.

"He's offered to campaign with us and I expect that will be happening in the coming weeks," said Matt Weisman, a spokesman for Democrat Brad Ellsworth, who's hoping to unseat John Hostettler in the 8th CD. "We look forward to taking him up on that offer."

According to a WISH-TV poll released Sept. 19th, Ellsworth has a 44-40 margin over the incumbent. "This is the closest congressional race in the state," said reporter Jim Shella.

Weisman assured HPR that Bayh has long been supportive of his candidate.

"Evan Bayh has been very helpful financially both in terms of donating money and helping us raise money," he said. The senator's leadership PAC, All America PAC, has contributed $10,000. And the senator is not the only Bayh to support Ellsworth, Weisman said. Evan's father, the former Sen. Birch Bayh, "has been tremendously helpful. He's also offered to come and campaign with us and we look forward to taking him up on that offer as well."

The younger Bayh also supported Joe Donnelly's effort to unseat Chris Chocola in the 2nd CD with a $10,000 donation. As noted in yesterday's HPR Daily Wire, a South Bend Tribune/WSBT-TV poll taken over the weekend has Donnelly leading among likely voters 50-42.

"Sen. Bayh has been a tremendous help to us in the district," said Katie Nee, the Democrat's campaign manager. "We have worked out some events in the future but I don't know if they are in stone. They are not part of our public schedule yet. Bayh has offered to do quite a bit for our campaign and really a lot of things to support and elect Joe Donnelly." Bayh will deliver a Jefferson-Jackson Dinner speech Nov. 2 in South Bend.

He has also supplied paid staffing to four congressional races and a state contest through his Camp Bayh staffer program at a salary of $1,000 a month for three months. The senator trained and then placed workers in the 2nd, 3rd, 8th and 9th CDs as well as in the contest for Indiana's District 31 House seat. Lucas John Burkett of South Bend is working for Donnelly.

"He's been a great help to us," Nee said. "He's a field staffer. He does a lot of voter contact and reaching out to voters in our district."

Conversations with Bayh's office suggest similar plans are in the works for other hotly contested races, although this writer was unable to reach Baron Hill's 9th CD campaign or the Indiana Democratic Party for comment. (Hill is in a close battle with Rep. Mike Sodrel - a WISH-TV poll released Sept. 12th put the challenger ahead 46-40.)

"We'll send out scheduling information once the details are finalized closer to time," Meghan Keck, Bayh's press secretary, told HPR. "It's going to be exciting."

Yes, Indiana, it is going to be exciting. There's still time before persuadable voters begin to move out of the undecided column, but not much.

"People begin to make up their minds and then at some point in the campaign it will shift to simply a turn-out strategy," Hanson, the IU professor, said. "The interesting thing about the 8th and 9th district is that polls suggest there are a lot of people - on the order of 15 to 20 percent or more - who haven't made up their mind yet. You've got to come in early enough to shape that initial choice to be really successful in the end."

Bayh also has irons in the fire in key places like Iowa. This weekend he will be helping campaigns in New Hampshire, where he will speak at the Manchester City Democrats' "Countdown to Victory Dinner" and visit Rochester, Nashua and Salem. But observers within and far beyond the state's borders will be paying close attention to the caliber and impact of his efforts to help Indiana Democrats.

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, or the Kos of, recently wrote, "One reason I am blissfully unwilling to pick sides in the presidential race is that I want the candidates to prove that they can help build their local Democratic Parties and deliver Democratic victories beyond their own."

Winning Red State votes may be key to winning elections, but winning the support of outspoken Democrats like the Kos will enable Evan Bayh to gain traction toward a run at his party's presidential nomination in 2008. The results of this year's midterms in Indiana will provide more clues about his chances in that endeavor.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bayh asserts security credentials

Bayh asserts security credentials

For Howey Political Report Sept. 14, 2006

Evan Bayh has been working overtime to assert his national security credentials. In the week since the end of the Senate's summer recess he has made repeated calls for Congress and the president to make changes in the prosecution of the war on terror.

On Monday, five years after the national tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush told the American people that the war against terrorists "is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation."

The safety of America, he said, "depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad."

According to Sen. Bayh, the administration's policies - and the president's leadership - are insufficient to meet these challenges. In the past seven days he has:

• Criticized Senate leadership for their inability to pass an intelligence authorization bill for the second year in a row;

• Blasted Congress for failing to implement all of the 9-11 Commission's recommendations;

• Lamented "the bureaucratic and dysfunctional nature of Washington" in announcing he had successfully inserted an amendment into defense appropriations legislation to fully fund a previously ignored and then delayed U.S. Special Operations Command request for Predator unmanned aerial vehicles;

• Joined with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) to request at least one hearing on the state of U.S. human intelligence collections on Iran before the end of the month in light of "the intelligence failures in Iraq."

On the day after the events of 9-11, Sen. Bayh issued a statement resolving "to make those who have perpetrated this terrible act pay for their crimes." Like nearly all Americans, he abandoned politics and partisanship to support the president in developing an appropriate response to the terrorist attacks.

"There's a strong bipartisan atmosphere here in Washington the likes of which I have not seen before," he said after President Bush's speech of Sept. 20, 2001. "It is unfortunate that it took tragedy to bring it about, but today, there are no Democrats or Republicans in Washington, only Americans. We are going to work with our President to make sure that we protect our country, punish those who committed this crime, and do whatever it takes to make sure this never happens again."

Yet partisanship was clearly back in vogue as early as July 2002, when Bayh presided as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council that rapped "a confused and compromised Bush administration and a hapless, interest-group-driven GOP."

An article in the July 29, 2002, issue of the DLC magazine, The Blueprint, stated "The administration's one great success in the fight against terrorism, the military campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, is beginning to look like an exception to a general rule of uncertainty and drift."

Bayh's unease with the administration's policies did not prevent him from supporting the invasion of Iraq in a resolution tendered a few months later. He joined 76 other senators, including most Democrats, in voting to authorize the attack. News reports of the time indicate Bayh teamed with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) in "leading a bipartisan effort to give the president the authorization he has asked for." (Kwame Holman, PBS News Hour)

"I am pleased to join with my colleagues today on a bipartisan basis to authorize the President of the United States to use appropriate force to defend the national security interests of our country," Bayh said in a speech offered Oct. 2, 2002, when Resolution 46 was submitted (Iraq Watch). "I join in this effort with a sense of regret that events have come to this. No one can contemplate the use of military force with much satisfaction, but I also approach this debate with the firm conviction that the time has come to unite, to take those steps that are necessary to protect our country, including the use of force, because all other avenues have been exhausted and seem unlikely to lead to the result of protecting the American people."

By May 2004 Bayh was clearly dissatisfied with the administration's "conduct of our Iraqi policy." During an appearance by Donald Rumsfeld before the Armed Services Committee prompted in part by the Iraqi prison scandal, Bayh asked the secretary of defense point-blank:

"Would it serve to demonstrate how seriously we take this situation, and therefore help to undo some of the damage to our reputation, if you were to step down?" Bayh asked Rumsfeld.

"That's possible," Rumsfeld said.

At the time Indiana's former governor said he didn't really expect Rumsfeld to quit. "[T]here are broader questions here about the conduct of our Iraqi policy," he said on an appearance with Fox News Sunday, "and that all goes to the Oval Office. So, I don't think Donald Rumsfeld ought to be made a scapegoat for that."

In August 2004 the president told the New York Times he had made "a miscalculation of what the conditions would be" in post-war Iraq. By September the death toll of U.S. soldiers topped 1,000. In October, Paul Bremer, who had been Bush's civilian administrator in Iraq, said the U.S. "paid a big price" for not having enough troops on the ground after overthrowing Saddam (CNN). Also that month, a CIA report concluded "Hussein did not possess stockpiles of illicit weapons at the time of the U.S. invasion in March 2003 and had not begun any program to produce them," CNN reported.

By December, apparently, the junior senator had had enough. During a lengthy appearance on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Sen. Bayh called on the secretary to resign. Here is an excerpt from the show's transcript:

BAYH: ...And when you see [then White House Chief of Staff] Andy Card say, "Hey, everything has been great, there have been no mistakes, we don't have to correct anything," you have to wonder what's going on. Look, it's better that wisdom come late than not at all. And we have to learn from these mistakes so that we do better to minimize the number of casualties to win this thing so that we can ultimately come home.

And it's the lack of any introspection that I find to be very troubling.

BLITZER: But I want to just press you on this point. You're a moderate Democrat, well-known.

Do you think he should resign?

BAYH: Well, reluctantly, Wolf, I've concluded that we have to have a different perspective. The commander in chief will be in place for the next four years, so that doesn't leave us many alternatives.

BLITZER: So you want Rumsfeld out?

BAYH: Well, I think that that is the way to go.

But if we don't have different policies, frankly, it will just be a game of musical chairs. What is important here is that we have better policies so that we can be successful in these things.

By February 2006, Evan Bayh was ready to recant his vote on the resolution supporting the invasion of Iraq (see HPR, April 13). After stating he would have made a different decision based on the facts now known, Bayh added, " is legitimate to ask what people have learned, how we would do things different, those kinds of things," Bayh told the Washington Post. "We've got to stop just obsessing on decisions that were made several years ago, and instead focus on where we are, and most importantly, where we're going, and how most effectively to resolve this in a way that is in the national security interest of the United States. That really is the main issue."

Bayh had already assailed Iran as "a grave and growing danger" to U.S. security interests and introduced a resolution calling for economic and cultural sanctions. He did not shy from continuing to push his party to adopt a national security policy that he described as "tough and smart."

"If people don't trust us with our lives, they're unlikely to trust us with anything else," Bayh often told Democrats during his travels through 22 states in the past year. He also slammed Republicans for being "a lot better at national security politics than national security policy."

President Bush and Karl Rove "have undermined our security," Bayh said during a speech two months ago. "Iraq is the foremost example. They have turned it into a tragic, tragic, mess. Democrats can do better."

On Aug. 9, Evan Bayh, once considered among the staunchest Democratic supporters for the war, told an audience at Indiana University South Bend that he supported a flexible timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, according to South Bend Tribune political writer James Wensits.

Bayh said "There's got to be a timeline for progress" that can be flexible "but you have to have a timeline or there's no end to it," Wentsits wrote, also noting the senator suggested the convening of a summit similar to that held in Dayton, Ohio, when the Balkans were breaking up.

Last week Bayh invited reporters to join him in a conference call to discuss the failure by Congress to implement all of the 9-11 Commission's recommendations.

"It is still a dangerous world," he said. "The plot to blow up airliners and kill thousands of people this summer reminds us that there [are] still people who plan to attack our country and kill Americans. We can't let that happen. Not enough is being done to prevent that. The bipartisan commission that studied the causes that led to the 9-11 attack made 41 recommendations. There was a review just recently about how we had done in implementing those recommendations. The report concluded four "F"s, nine "D"s and no "A"s. That's not acceptable. We have to do better."

Several Indiana news outlets have covered Bayh's latest statements. The national media have yet to notice, however. Type "evan bayh" and "national security" into the Google News search engine and the results number about 90 hits for the last month: type in Hillary Clinton and the number is 390; for John Kerry, it's 940.

Sen. Bayh will have an opportunity to improve those numbers over the next few days. Tomorrow he headlines the Iowa United Auto Workers political convention (Indianapolis Star). On Monday he will be in New York to host a fundraiser for Gov. John Lynch (D-N.H.) and gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver (D-Iowa). Former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke will offer a briefing on foreign policy, according to Bayh's press secretary Meghan Keck. And, in his fifth visit to the Granite State since the 2004 presidential election, Bayh is to be the special guest at the Manchester, N.H., City Democrats' "Countdown to Victory Dinner" on Sept. 24 (

The effort by both parties to shape the message on national security before mid-term elections presents an opportunity for Evan Bayh. Actually, it presents a double opportunity: He has the occasion to further assert his credentials in the area of defense while at the same time demonstrating the leadership critics say he lacks - the sort that inspires as much as it impresses. Should Bayh assume such a challenge and succeed, maybe then his ideas will receive the favorable attention the senator will need if he ever hopes to secure a spot on the ballot in the 2008 presidential election.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bayh to focus on national security before midterms

Bayh to focus on national security before midterms

For Howey Political Report Sept. 7, 2006

Evan Bayh will focus on national security legislation between now and when the Senate adjourns for the fall elections, press officer Meghan Keck told HPR yesterday evening in an email.

Earlier in the day Bayh, who serves on the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence, released a statement expressing "disappointment with the Senate Leadership’s failure to pass an intelligence authorization bill during this Congress."

"This Congress is failing in one of its most basic responsibilities," Sen. Bayh stated, according to the press release. "Our nation needs the best intelligence to win the war on terror and to deal with major threats such as Iran, North Korea and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Failure to pass an intelligence authorization for the second year in a row – after doing so every year since 1978 – is irresponsible and a danger to the nation’s security."

Meanwhile, the president has launched a series of speeches to regain the upper hand in support for his policies on Iraq and terror.

"We can allow the Middle East to continue on the course it was headed before 9/11 – and a generation from now, our children will face a region dominated by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons," the White House stated in a fact sheet. "Or we can rally the world to confront the ideology of hate and give the people of the Middle East a future of hope. That is the choice America has made."

Republicans hope the focus on national security will bolster the party's flagging prospects for November's midterms.

As noted often on these pages, Bayh has worked to build a reputation for being "tough and smart" on security matters. Indiana's former governor has urged his party to take a firm stance on defense and has challenged Republicans on their record in Iraq and on terror. Bayh must respond to the administration's attempt to shape the message on national security if he is to continue to claim leadership on this key issue.

The contenders

The 2008 presidential election is shaping up to be a raucous affair. Politics and partisanship have boxed lawmakers into corners far from any common ground. Americans are troubled by the long and difficult war. There's talk of a declining middle class. Federal spending is off the charts. The nation struggles under a tidal wave of new immigrants. Energy threatens security.

Our next president will be expected to work miracles, but is there a miracle worker available?

Evan Bayh must somehow distinguish himself in a burgeoning Democratic field. The senator's challengers include some of the greatest political success stories of the past two decades, an unusually lengthy list of contenders inspired in part by the fact that for the first time in 80 years neither the sitting president nor vice president will be a candidate.

Hillary Clinton

The junior senator from New York, facing re-election this year, leads every other candidate - Democrat or Republican - in fundraising with $22 million cash on hand. The wife of former President Bill Clinton may be a sometimes controversial public figure, but she is widely known and has established a broad base of support. However, as John Hood wrote in National Review, she faces an uphill battle inside her own party.

"There are good reasons why smart Democrats don’t want Clinton to bear their standard," Hood stated, noting political professionals "don’t like the prospect of running a candidate about whom very few voters have not already made up their minds."

John Edwards

"His status as the leading non-Clinton candidate is secure," according to Chuck Todd of the National Journal. "He has a tailor-made DNC primary calendar."

The one-term former senator from North Carolina made a name for himself as the party's vice president candidate in 2004. In the past two years he has spent more time in Iowa than any other Democrat. The investment paid off in a June poll conducted by the Des Moines Register which indicated Edwards leads the Democratic Iowa caucus. The former trial lawyer's prospects were further improved by the party's recent decision to schedule the South Carolina primary in the week following New Hampshire.

Mark Warner

In the past several months the former governor of Virginia has reportedly added $8 million to his campaign war chest. Warner, who was born in Indianapolis, was one of the early investors in Nextel, which last year sold to Sprint for $35 billion. A moderate, he enjoyed considerable success in the commonwealth and was named one of the five best governors by Time magazine in 2005.

In May, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote, "Proving his foreign policy bona fides is a critical hurdle for Warner," and he has been working to establish national security credentials. The Associated Press reported on a news conference in Las Vegas yesterday when Warner said 'the Bush administration's 'unilateral focus on Iraq' had diverted attention and resources from homeland security efforts."

Al Gore

"We won't rehash the arguments for and against a Gore candidacy," Cillizza wrote in June, "suffice to say that if he gets in, Gore would have to be considered the co-favorite for the nomination along with Clinton. And what an epic clash it would be."

John Kerry

With $13 million left over from his 2004 run at the presidency, the Massachusetts senator possesses the second-largest campaign fund among Democrats (Bayh is third at $10 million). "Kerry unmistakably wants to run again, though virtually all party activists with whom we have talked show almost no enthusiasm for a second Kerry bid," Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, wrote last year.

Barack Obama

"Obama is the Giuliani of the Democratic field," The National Journal's Todd wrote last week, "a candidate who probably won't run but can't be dismissed." However, the Post's Cillizza warned in July that "There is also a sense in Democratic circles that Obama is simply not ready to assume the role of spokesman for his party. They argue that Obama's considerable rhetorical skills belie a somewhat wet-behind-the-ears politician who is still trying to deal with his rapid rise to political fame."

The Others

Among the long list of Democrats said to be pondering a run at the White House in 2008: Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, New Mexcio Gov. Bill Richardson, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold and retired general Wesley Clark.