Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bayh, Obama and the hearts and minds of Democratic voters

Bayh, Obama and the hearts and minds of Democratic voters

For Howey Political Report Oct. 26, 2006

Democratic hearts and minds are atwitter with the prospect that Barack Obama may enter the 2008 presidential contest. The 45-year-old, second-year senator from Illinois launched a wave of Obama mania last week when he acknowledged he is considering a run for the White House.

Evan Bayh take note: Your party hungers for a leader.

Conventional wisdom indicates Americans expect leadership experience to figure prominently in a presidential resume. We demand a substantial record of risk-taking and decision-making - the kind you get as a company founder, CEO, mayor or, most especially, a governor. After all, four of the past five presidents have served as governors, which is why Evan Bayh stresses his two terms as Indiana' top executive almost every time he takes to the stump.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, boasts a resume thin on substance: Eight years in the Illinois state senate and two years in his current job. No wonder, as Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post noted, he is sometimes described as "wet behind the ears" and "not ready to assume the role of spokesman for his party."

Enthusiasm for Obama is rooted in significant strengths, however. In an article published mid-summer, Cillizza cited Obama's potential as a top-tier fundraiser and stated he would be the only viable Democratic contender who can claim to have opposed the invasion of Iraq from the beginning (Obama was in the Illinois legislature when the invasion was authorized in 2002).

But at the top of any list of Obama's strengths is the one attribute Bayh has yet to demonstrate, and that is the ability to excite the masses.

"There's little question that Obama is the hottest political Democratic commodity in the country right now, drawing support from across the geographic and ideological spectrum," Cillizza wrote.

Many observers have noted that the bright lights of an Obama campaign would dim the prospects of Bayh and others, including John Edwards and John Kerry. "Should Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton both enter the race, it would likely turn the nominating contest into a two-person affair," according to Cillizza.

My guess is Obama will resist the temptation to actively seek a spot on the 2008 ticket, although he may be signalling his interest in the number two spot. Regardless of the final decision, I do believe Obama fever offers Bayh a valuable lesson.

By most criteria the Hoosier senator's 2008 proto-campaign is among the most advanced to date, be it Republican or Democrat. The Bayh organization is one of the best in the business. He's lined up major donors. He has established a solid reputation in the senate and with the media. He even boasts a growing number of followers.

But he has yet to exhibit the quality of leadership that excites, motivates and otherwise inspires others on the scale that will be necessary to unite and guide a fragmented Democratic Party.

"With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed," Abraham Lincoln said during his Aug. 21, 1858, debate with Stephan A. Douglas. "Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed."

Bayh may want to keep that Lincoln quote handy as he continues to fashion and adapt a strategy aimed at winning the hearts and minds of today's voters.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bayh Sees Red, Hopes To Turn Blue

Bayh Sees Red, Hopes To Turn Blue

For Howey Political Report Oct. 19, 2006

Evan Bayh will be chalking up some serious frequent campaigner miles in the 18 days remaining before the midterm elections, with announced visits to five states, including two trips to Indiana.

"Bayh to Campaign in Red States and Districts Between Now and Election Day" was the headline on a news release distributed by the senator's office earlier this week. According to the published schedule, Indiana's junior senator will dedicate nine days supporting Hoosier Democrats. He is slated to be on the road a total of a dozen days during the time period.

Earlier this week Bayh visited Atlanta where he attended a fundraiser on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Mark Taylor. Polls indicate the Democrat trails GOP incumbent Sonny Perdue by 20 points, with as many as 15 percent undecided. President Bush carried Georgia 58/41 in 2004 (C-SPAN).

Today our former governor is in Nevada (Bush 50/48) stumping on behalf of the Dina Titus for Governor campaign, congressional candidate Tessa Hafen and other Democrats. Bayh is slated to appear at a Titus event to discuss senior issues at a town hall forum in Las Vegas. Recent polling in the gubernatorial race favored Republican Jim Gibbons 45/36, with 10 percent undecided (Las Vegas Review Journal). The same poll found Hafen trailing 47/37 in an evenly split district.

New Hampshire (Kerry 50/49) is on the agenda for midweek. Tuesday he visits Norton's Classic Cafe to stump for Nashua City Democrats. Wednesday, a busy day for Bayh, begins at the Bedford Village Inn for a Politics and Eggs forum.

Later he flies to Kentucky (Bush 60/40) for an appearance on behalf of Ken Lucas, Democratic candidate in Kentucky's 4th Congressional District. Two recent polls indicate voters favor incumbent Geoff Davis by a slim margin (46/49, 44/47).

The day ends in Indiana (Bush 60/39). Bayh's office has not released any details on either of two trips to the Hoosier state, including the first, which runs Wednesday through next Friday. The senator's news release reported Bayh's agenda simply as "Indiana Campaigning with Congressional and Legislative Candidates." Earlier this month he conducted a two-day campaign blitz on behalf of Democrats running in the three congressional races considered by many observers to be among the state's most competitive - the 2nd, 8th and 9th. It would not be surprising to see a Bayh visit to the 3rd CD before the election. Yesterday HPR reported that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put the 3rd CD on its "emerging races" category, and that Democratic challenger Thomas Hayhurst holds a significant money advantage over incumbent Mark Souder. HPR has listed the race as "Leans Souder" throughout the current election cycle.

On Nov. 1st Bayh is slated to appear at a fundraiser for Tammy Duckworth, the Democrat who hopes to win the 6th CD of Illinois (Kerry 55/45), the seat vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Henry Hyde. A Reuters/Zogby poll released earlier this month shows Republican Peter Roskar trailing 43/38.

Although he has yet to announce any further details, Bayh's communications team indicated the senator will stump in Indiana Nov. 2-7.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ready to rumble: Bayh in state to support Democratic candidates

Ready to rumble: Bayh in state to support Democratic candidates

For Howey Political Report Oct. 5, 2006

In the past year or so Sen. Evan Bayh has worked to make a name for himself by traveling the Democratic Party's rubber chicken circuit through 22 states, often speaking at Jefferson-Jackson dinners or during smaller gatherings such as fund raisers and more intimate events. In the key presidential states of Iowa and New Hampshire he has labored a total of 29 days on behalf of party organizations and candidates.

Today and tomorrow the senator weighs in on the Indiana midterms with visits to support Democratic congressional candidates in three of the most closely watched races in the country. He's also promised to deliver a check to the state's Democratic Party for the amount of $100,000.

This morning he appeared at events in Mishawaka and La Porte in the 2nd Congressional District with Joe Donnelly before heading south to Terre Haute, where he will stage a press conference with 8th CD nominee Brad Ellsworth. Tomorrow he teams with Ellsworth for a media event in Evansville, and then travels to New Albany where he and Baron Hill of Indiana's 9th will present yet another press conference.

In the past several weeks Indiana's junior senator had stated intentions to support Hoosier Democratic campaigns, but dates were not made available until Monday when National Journal's Hotline blog featured the announcement.

"Bayh will also campaign for IN state house candidates and plans to appear in television spots on their behalf," the Hotline article read. "A Bayh spokesman stresses that Bayh 'is not going to be decisive in these races,' but attributes some of their competitiveness to the trail Bayh, who served two terms as GOV." The blog further notes the senator will travel in support of candidates in Ohio, Kentucky, Iowa, Nevada and Illinois.

It wasn't until late yesterday morning that All America PAC, Bayh's leadership PAC, released a media advisory detailing the former governor's agenda during his return to the Hoosier state.

"Press conference on Efforts to Stop Unfair Trade" was Bayh's first stop this morning at the United Steel Workers Union Hall in Mishawaka. Following the media event both Bayh and Donnelly met with union workers who manufacture Humvees at AM General. "Greet Diners and Coffee at Louie's Restaurant" in La Porte was to follow.

This afternoon's event with Ellsworth is billed as a "Press conference on Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations" at the Vigo County Courthouse at 2:30. Tomorrow both Democrats plan to stage a similar event at Evansville Regional Airport's main terminal at 10:45 a.m.

Hill and Bayh will appear at yet another press conference on the 9/11 recommendations in New Albany at 2 p.m. tomorrow.

Sen. Bayh's $100,000 contribution to the Indiana Democratic Party is more than double the total financial support he has offered fellow Hoosiers thus far in the current election cycle. In addition to a $25,000 check already delivered to the state party the senator has contributed as much as $10,000 to several candidates, including the three closest congressional races (See HPR, Sept. 21). According to data available at the Federal Election Commission website, Sen. Bayh's leadership PAC has contributed more than $120,000 to Democratic committees and candidates in the 2005-2006 election cycle through the end of June.

Last Saturday through Monday Sen. Bayh undertook a tour of Iowa to appear at fundraisers and other events on behalf of local Democratic organizations and candidates. (He was slated to begin the trip on Friday but remained an extra day in Washington to vote against the military tribunal bill.)

"Sen. Bayh came out to help draw a crowd essentially and he did a wonderful job of that," according to Ben Foecke, campaign manager for Merle Johnson, a candidate for the Iowa state senate. Bayh supported Johnson's campaign at an event in Ankeny, a northern suburb of Des Moines, on Sunday evening. It was one of nine such events over the course of the trip. Foecke, who said his campaign planned the appearance on a week's notice, was happy to report that more than 80 people attended. "It was a crowd for this community," he said. Foecke indicated attendees were encouraged to make a "free-will donation" but did not know how much money was collected (Bayh's office was just as tight-lipped).

Carrie Tedore and her husband Scott co-hosted a similar to-do in Dubuque during the Saturday night gridiron matchup between the Iowa State Hawkeyes and Ohio State Buckeyes. Tedore also was unaware how much was raised during her event, but she was quite certain Sen. Bayh made a positive impression.

"He was the guest of honor and he did say a few words," Tedore told HPR. "He is a very engaging speaker. He spoke about the need for change and what's gone wrong and he was very motivating as a matter of fact."

The Tedores laid out what she described as a traditional midwestern barbecue at their home on West Third Street. She said about 60 local Democrats were on hand to hear Bayh speak, nearly as many as attended a similar event hosted the previous week at a local vineyard and headlined by another presidential contender, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.).

"The guests stayed through the Hawkeye game so I got to speak to a lot of them and they were very impressed," the hostess said. "Some came to the event just knowing the name and they left knowing the man. It was a really wonderful thing. I think it was great for him and I think it was great for the [local] Democratic leadership."

According to Tedore, the guests' "jaws hit the floor" when Bayh discussed Indiana's 21st Century Scholars Program. "People couldn't believe that actually wasn't just a dream, that was actually a reality," she said.

Bayh's office has yet to announce the who, what, when and where portion of his plans to campaign for Indiana statehouse races. HPR forecasts a close contest for control in both the House and Senate, and the former governor's popularity remains high among critical demographic segments (see HPR, Sept. 21). Bayh's support could spur persuadable voters and Democrats who might otherwise stay at home to cast deciding ballots in several key matchups, not the least of which is Senate District 41, where Republican Greg Walker leads Democrat Terry Coriden in the battle for Bob Garton's former seat.