One day before the filing deadline for the Democratic primary, Evan Bayh surprised Indiana voters by announcing that he would not seek reelection to another term representing them in the Senate. Bayh is one of the most respected figures in the Senate who also served as Indiana’s governor and was a presidential contender in 2008.
Bayh has held his seat for only two terms, a seat which his father also held for three terms. In that time he made a significant mark in the Senate, taking the lead on important legislation in education and environmental regulation and playing an key role as a moderate on the Armed Services Committee.
In announcing his decision, Bayh complained of frustration with partisan gridlock in Washington. Bayh may also have been motivated by the prospect of a very challenging and contentious race for reelection in a state where Republicans have become increasingly ascendant. Bayh’s personal popularity and moderate views might have won the day, but with him gone any other Democrat may have little chance against likely Republican nominee Dan Coats who held the office before Bayh won it in 1998.
Some have speculated that Bayh’s goal has always been the presidency and that he realized that being associated with the increasingly unpopular Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration would work against him and that it would be smarter to run as a seasoned outsider in the 2012 or 2016 presidential election.
Bayh’s future plans remain unclear, but at today’s announcement he commented:
“There are better ways to serve my fellow citizens…I love working for the people of Indiana. I love helping our citizens make the most of their lives, but I do not love Congress.”
An understandable view from a moderate increasingly at odds with the polarized politics of both left and right.