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.


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