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.


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