Evan Bayh Is Returning to Politics — and That Boosts Democrats’ Chances of Winning the Senate

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2008 Democratic National Convention: Day 3
Yet another Republican-held Senate seat in play thanks to Evan Bayh's decision to jump into the race in Indiana.Photo: Win McNamee

Months after the Senate landscape for 2016 seemed to be locked into place, a surprise is in the works for today as former Indiana governor and senator Evan Bayh is expected to leap into the contest for his old seat. Former congressman Baron Hill, the Democratic nominee for the Senate this year, has already stepped aside to let Bayh run.

Odds are that Bayh is today a lot more popular with Senate Democrats than he was six years ago, when he penned a dyspeptic op-ed in the New York Times lamenting the passing of the productive, bipartisan Senate of yore when his father served in the upper chamber. He talked about maybe going to work in higher education, but ultimately took a lobbyist/lawyer gig with a prominent national firm.

But whatever you think of his consistency, there’s no question about Bayh’s electoral appeal in Indiana. He broke a 20-year Democratic drought in the governor’s office in 1988, and then was reelected by a landslide in 1992. His percentages of the vote in his two Senate races in 1998 and 2004 were 64 percent and 62 percent, respectively. His sudden emergence this year must make Republican nominee Representative Todd Young, a heavy favorite over Hill, wonder what he did to offend the Almighty. On top of his other assets, Bayh has nearly 10 million smackers sitting in a Senate campaign account since his abandonment of his 2010 reelection campaign.

This development puts another Republican-held Senate seat (the incumbent who won the seat in 2010 in his own Senate comeback, Dan Coats, is retiring) into play along with seats in Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, with Arizona, Florida, Missouri, and North Carolina possibly competitive as well. A Democratic Senate — and with it, the strong possibility a President Hillary Clinton could get Supreme Court nominees and maybe even a budget approved — is beginning to look like an even bet or better so long as Donald Trump continues to have his problems.