By BRIAN A. HOWEY

NASHVILLE, Ind. - Former Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh will not seek third term for governor, telling HPI the decision "was really a governing one, not a political one."

"After serious consideration, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2016," Bayh said. "I hope that my decision will enable others to step forward and offer their ideas for making Indiana an even better place to live, work and raise a family."

The news prompted the two most likely contenders - former 2012 nominee John Gregg and Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. - to assess their opportunities. "I am strongly considering a run," Gregg told HPI Friday morning, saying he would make a decision after Election Day in November. "I have a record of getting along with Republicans when I was co-speaker of a 50/50 House. I got along with the Republican Senate." McDermott told HPI, "I am going to absorb this and see what it means for the future. I’m young and time is on our side.”

Bayh told HPI on Friday afternoon, "My decision was really a governing one, not a political one. If I was going to run for an office as important as governor, it was because I would have a substantial, positive agenda. The political atmosphere has changed. It's changed in Washington for sure and some of that has affected the Statehouse, too. It's more polarized and more partisan than they were back in the day when I was being governor. Sure we had our disputes. Sure there were differences, but I think there was more a willingness to find common ground, to strike principled compromises.

"No. 2, back then my first two years as governor th House was split 50/50," Bayh continued. "The next four years my political party had a 52-48 majority. And then the last two years it was still close but he other party had a majority. There was still the possibility to reaching out and convincing enough people. You could reach a consensus. Today, the gap between the two parties is so large . . . it may be reduced some, but realistically it's going to be fairly wide for some time. You combine that with the fact that in our state, somewhat uniquely among states the governor's veto can be overridden by a simple majority, and I just concluded that my ability to deliver on a big, positive agenda in the state was going to be fairly limited. If that was the case, at least for me, I didn't want to be a figurehead governor. I didn't want to just have the title. It was what I could get done. I didn't just wanted to run for my ego."

Bayh told HPI that he plans to help Hillary Clinton and her likely 2016 presidential campaign, is working with the CIA and the Senate to smooth out a controversy there, and will continue to be involved with the No Labels organization that is attempting to create a more bipartisan, consensus atmosphere on Capitol Hill.

"I did call the former president to inform him of my decision," Bayh said of Bill Clinton. "I offered to help them any way I could. Whether it's politically or governing, I would be willing to help any way they see fit. If she does run, I would be delighted to be very active on her behalf."

He emphatically ruled out any future runs for office. "I have no plans to run for anything. Period. End of paragraph," Bayh said.

McDermott had been critical of Bayh when he abruptly pulled out of the 2010 U.S. Senate race when he would have sought a third term, and then again when it essentially froze fundraising for his fledgling campaign as well as that Gregg. “Mike Pence can’t even say he’s running for sure,” said McDermott, who received a phone call from Bayh this morning informing him of the decision.

 Gregg has been campaigning on behalf of 2014 legislative candidates. "I'm stumping for local and legislative candidates. I've been appearing at J-J dinners, keeping up the pace," Gregg said. "No one else is doing that." Asked about the potential of picking up House and Senate seats this fall and in 2016, Gregg said, "To sit here and talk about what could happen in the 2016 election is just too difficult."

While Gov. Pence has been raising money for a reelection campaign, and his former chief of staff Bill Smith told the Indiana Republican Central Committee in August that he is planning to seek a second term, Pence has been conspicuously flirting with a 2016 presidential bid. Pence defeated Gregg by just under 3% of the vote, getting only 49%, the first governor to win the office with less than 50% in half a century.

Developing . . . .