Dave Kitchell: Bayh most interested Hillary observer
Thursday, February 07, 2013 6:03 AM
LOGANSPORT – It might be too early for voters to think about who they will vote for in the 2016 presidential race, but it isn’t too early for potential candidates to think about whether they will be candidates in 2016.
That’s because the next president has to be talking to people even now, raising money, testing the waters and scoping out the potential challenger field.
I’m not a betting man, but in Vegas, the odds would have to be on a 2016 match-up pitting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christy and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Pundits are always interested in “what-ifs” when it comes to candidacies, but the person who has to have more interest than other non-pundits this time around is former Sen. Evan Bayh.
There is some great irony in the fact that Bayh might be vice president today if it had not been for the meteoric rise of a former Illinois senator named Barack Obama. Bayh’s name was on the political horizon long before 10 percent of Americans could tell you what state Obama was from or what office he held there.
Clinton had virtually tabbed Bayh as her running mate in waiting and Indiana Democrats, including former House Speaker Pat Bauer, had endorsed Clinton for president. The Bayh allegiance to Clinton had to go a long way to helping her win Indiana in the 2008 Democratic primary.
For her efforts and her cause to become the first female president, Obama rewarded her with the No. 3 position in the federal government.
What did Bayh get?
It wasn’t the first time Bayh was in the running for second place on the national ticket, but will it be the last?
That’s the question Bayh has to be thinking about every day until Clinton decides whether she’ll make another run.
In some respects, the decks are cleared for her. She recently has had her campaign debt from 2008 paid off, and she had borrowed from her own funds to keep that campaign going. She has stepped down as secretary of state, which presumably gives her the time to ponder a bid and the instant anonymity of being able to work behind the scenes. There is no perceived frontrunner in 2016 and given Vice President Joe Biden’s age, he will not be a logical choice.
That leaves Bayh with a glossy resume that includes 12 years in Washington and eight years as governor. He grew up there and he has a history of being a moderate at a time when the Tea Party’s influence is waning and extreme candidates are waning with them, witness Richard Mourdock’s failed bid for the U.S. Senate.
Whether Bayh’s name appears on the ballot in 2016 depends on part on the Democratic field if Clinton doesn’t run.
Some of the names that have to be considered are New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey Jr., Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the real wild card who is one of Bayh’s old friends from the days he was growing up in Washington – Al Gore.
Indiana Democrats shouldn’t expect Bayh to be on the ballot in this state in 2016 unless he’s a candidate for vice president. But if the veepstakes up Bayh again, don’t be surprised if he returns to Indiana in 2020 as a retiree who is willing to run for governor again and resurrect the party, particularly if Mike Pence is completing a second term and Democrats are fewer and farther between in the Indiana General Assembly than they are now.
The only other scenario that could return Bayh to Washington is if Democrats lose a majority in the Senate or are close to it with Sen. Dan Coats’ seat hanging in the balance. If that happens, a Bayh return might be likely. For now, the future of Evan Bayh in politics is simply an intriguing question for Hoosiers and Washington insiders.
Kitchell is an award-winning columnist based in Logansport.