Monday, February 15, 2010

Obama's First Challenger in 2012

With his presidency already in ruins (Don Imus called it "Jimmy Carter II this morning; welcome to the party, I-Man), Barack Obama won't be lacking for Republican opposition in 2012. If you believe that Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney--and others--will sit out the next presidential election, we've got a bridge in Brooklyn you might want to purchase.

Yet, Mr. Obama could take some solace in the willingness of his party to stand behind him. Virtually all went along with his socialist schemes, despite the political risks. And when the polls went south (and Democrats began announcing their retirements from office), most bowed out gracefully, offering limited criticism of the President and his policies. Mr. Obama could also find comfort in the fact that none of the Democratic retirees posed a threat to his re-nomination in two years.

But all of that changed today, when Indiana's Evan Bayh announced he would not seek a third term in the Senate.

The news was stunning, to say the least. Among the Democratic incumbents up for re-election this fall, Mr. Bayh was considered one of the least vulnerable, though he certainly faced a bruising re-election battle.

In fact, while Republicans in other states were lining up to run against vulnerable Democratic incumbents, there was some question as to whom the GOP might pit against Bayh. Popular Republican Congressman Mike Pence took a pass on the race a couple of weeks ago. And, former Senator Dan Coats jumped into the fray only after it rumors of Bayh's retirement began to make the rounds. Readers may recall that Coats bowed out of a re-election bid in 1998, rather than face Mr. Bayh in the general election.

Interestingly, Mr. Coats isn't currently registered to vote in his home state, although that "problem" can be easily remedied. Since leaving the Senate more than a decade ago, Coats has worked as a lobbyist in Washington. He also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany under President George W. Bush, from 2001-2005.

As for Mr. Bayh, we agree (for once) with Charles Lane of the Washington Post, who believes that the "retiring" Senator is trying to avoid the looming Democratic train wreck, and re-position himself for 2012:

Quitting the Senate was a no-lose move for the presidentially ambitious Bayh, since he can now crawl away from the political wreckage for a couple of years, plausibly alleging that he tried to steer the party in a different direction -- and then be perfectly positioned to mount a centrist primary challenge to Obama in 2012, depending on circumstances.

There will be those Democrats who bid good riddance to Bayh and his coal-burning-state apostasy about cap and trade, etc. If so, they won’t need a very big tent to contain the celebration. On a more pragmatic view, Bayh’s dramatic vote of no-confidence in his own party’s leadership looks like another Massachusetts-sized political earthquake for the Democrats. Not only does it imperil the president’s short-term hopes of passing health care and other major legislation this year. It also makes it much more likely that the Republicans can pick up Bayh’s Senate seat in normally red Indiana and, with it, control of the Senate itself. If present trends continue, November could turn into a Republican rout.

Of course, there is one problem with this "theory." The Democratic base--including all those voters who show up for the early primaries and caucuses--has veered so far to the left, you can only wonder how much support Mr. Bayh would attract. On the other hand, if the economy remains in the tank (and the Obama Presidency remains a disaster area), then Evan Bayh could run well in states like Iowa, New Hampshire and the Super Tuesday primaries in the south. At that point, Mr. Obama would be in serious trouble, and the race could tilt in the challenger's favor.

Senator may also view 2012 as a "make or break" year for his presidential ambitions, despite long odds. If he waits for 2016, he would likely face a Republican incumbent, an improving economy, and a still-fractured Democratic base. Putting off a bid until 2020 would leave him out of the national spotlight for a decade, relegating him to "has been" status, and greatly impacting his fund-raising abilities.

Defeating an incumbent president from your own party is no easy task; Ted Kennedy couldn't prevent Jimmy Carter from winning re-nomination in 1980, and Ronald Reagan fell short trying to unseat Gerald Ford four years earlier. Evan Bayh would face similar obstacles in challenging Barack Obama in 2012.

But Mr. Bayh has rarely expressed doubts about his own abilities. The Senator has long viewed himself as presidential material, and his departure from Congress won't change that. He will also get plenty of encouragement from his fellow Democrats, anxious to find anyone who can rescue them from the S.S. Obama.

Put another way, we be greatly surprised if Evan Bayh didn't form some sort of exploratory committee and start visiting places like Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida on a recurring basis. He's still a long-shot to win in 2012 (and that's being charitable), but his decision to leave the Senate sends a clear signal to the anti-Obama elements in the Democratic Party. Anyone who doesn't want to go down with Captain Obama needs to find--and get behind--a candidate willing to take on a failing president. With today's announcement, Evan Bayh becomes the first Democrat to move in that direction.

He won't be the last.


Neil said...

Hmmmm, the biggest problem for Mr. Bayh is that the "Progressive" wing of the party controls the money. If I were him I'd thinking seriously about seeing how many red-state Democrats would be willing to split the party and throw in with a new Tea Party. It would be bad news for the Republicans, but what does he care about that?

Alessandro Machi said...

I agree that the progressives have the money, but they are losing support. This may have been payback for what Obama, Edwards, and Richardson did in Michigan to Hillary Clinton in 2007.

They all three took their name off of the Michigan ballot just before the deadline (sound familar?), then all three attacked Hillary Clinton for not doing the same even though it was now too late for her to pull out even if she wanted to.

Bayh delivers payback for Barack Obama Michigan shenanigans.

Paul G. said...

Out of curiosity, what are the socialist schemes? Was it rescuing the banks? (Bush) Was it rescuing the automakers? (Bush) Was it not raising taxes? Was it because of healthcare? Gee, we all know the current system works so well. Was it a Medicare prescription drug plan that forbids price negotiations? (Bush) Was it invading Iraq and Afghanistan so we're paying that military bill for years? (Oh that's right, we don't like taxes, lets just borrow from the Chinese some more)

Funny to call Obama (who just told NASA that private industry could explore space better and cheaper) a socialist.

What is "Occupation" said...

Today the sun shines a tad bit brighter...

But the reality is that BHO, Pelosi and Reid are still in power for years...

Hillary just made a nice, feeling warm all over speech to the OIC lecturing them that Jihad is "internal struggle" and Islam is not the problem...

W Phelps said...

Check out the Tom Roeser blog for some interesting observations on the Bayh announcement. It seems will have extreme difficulties in fielding a replacement due to state election laws.

Alessandro Machi said...

Roeser claims that the Illinois primary was moved up for the 2008 democratic race. What else did the poor oppressed Barack Obama democratic higher ups do level the playing the field for Barack Obama.

You all would be a lot better off if Hillary Clinton had been elected president.