Imagine the reaction across this state if, out of the blue, Senator Grassley unexpectedly announced that he would not seek re-election in November. That news would send shock-waves around the state and the nation. Grassley isn’t about to retire, but his colleague, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, did just that when he suddenly announced he is leaving the Senate yesterday.
While a number of Democrats have been pressured to retire rather than stand for re-election, Senator Bayh doesn’t fit the mold of the other Democrats who were forced out to pasture. Bayh has a mindboggling $13 million in his campaign account, and Indiana Democrats recently released poll numbers showing Bayh easily ahead of both former Sen. Dan Coats and former U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, his two must likely challengers.
A Rasmussen poll in January showed that Bayh would face a tough re-election, especially against Indiana Congressman Mike Pence. Peace led Bayh in the Rasmussen poll 47% to 44%. Still, knocking off Bayh would be no easy task for Republicans in November. Bayh’s retirement gives Republicans one of their best pick-up opportunities in the Senate.
It is likely that Sen. Bayh is making a political calculation. In fact, his abrupt retirement is similar to Sarah Palin’s unexpected departure from office. The only difference between Bayh and Palin is that Bayh isn’t leaving office immediately, and he doesn’t have a bunch people filing frivolous ethics complaints against him.
Bayh now has distanced himself from President Obama and his agenda. He can now become the centrist Democrat alternative to the President. While it’s doubtful that he would run against an incumbent President Obama, Bayh’s name will likely remain at the top of the list of potential Democratic presidential candidates in 2016.
Bayh’s voluntary exit only makes a bad situation worse for Democrats across the country. In Iowa, Governor Culver’s approval, favorability, and re-elect numbers are in the gutter. Liberal 2006 gubernatorial candidate Ed Fallon has indicated that Culver needs a primary challenge. Whether Fallon primaries Culver or not, Culver will almost certainly be on the ballot this fall.
If there is an Iowa Democrat that could be forced into early retirement, it’s Congressman Leonard Boswell. Speculation is rampant that the Democratic National Committee is behind a recent telephone survey that gauged the favorability of three potential replacements for Boswell, including Christie Vilsack and State Rep. Geri Huser.
Boswell has faced formidable opponents before, but this time, the political environment is much worse for the seven-term Democrat. Most people also assume that, win or lose, this will be Boswell’s last campaign since there is a good chance he could be put in a district with another congressman after 2010 redistricting.
If Boswell is in as much trouble as people think he’s in, then the DNC would probably rather funnel financial resources into the district to help elect someone new instead of re-electing an inarticulate incumbent who is on the verge of retirement anyways.
When prominent Democrats like Evan Bayh retire, it only puts more pressure on someone like Boswell to step aside so that his party can maintain control of his district. All of these unexpected retirements have more to do with political positioning and the good of the Democratic Party than the desires and wishes of weak incumbents.
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