Evan Bayh for veep? That’s the latest name churned out by the Barack Obama rumor mill for the Democratic nominee’s running mate, wrapped in the usual insidery details to sell the story.
It’s possible that (as Freud might say) this layover is just a layover. And softball games are frequently canceled in D.C. in August for lack of players who are willing to sweat it out. But rather than putting this latest rumor to rest, let’s run with it.
After all, the selection of Bayh would make some sense from Obama’s perspective. Indiana is a state that his campaign only narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and the Real Clear Politics polling averages show that the state is a coin toss. Putting a Hoosier on the ticket wouldn’t hurt.
The Illinois senator wants to mend bad relations with Clinton supporters and here is a senator who backed Clinton in the primaries. Even better, Obama is trying to appear more moderate for the general election, and they don’t come more boringly moderate than Evan Bayh.
Bayh’s father Birch Bayh was an interesting liberal senator who was often thought of as presidential material. His career was ended by future vice president Dan Quayle. The son learned lessons from his dad’s defeat.
The younger Bayh’s entire political career seems poll tested and calculated. He was for the Iraq war, then critical of it, but doesn’t want to get carried away or anything. He told the Washington Post that the U.S. had to find a “sensible middle ground” between “‘cut and run’…and mindlessly staying the course.”
On abortion, he’s generally pro-choice but draws the line at partial birth abortions. He’s voted for laws that would require parents to be notified when minors cross state lines to procure abortions, but against laws that would restrict said abortions.
Bayh wants more perks, subsidies, and tax credits for small businesses. He favors more “school choice” — within the public school system, of course. He’s for trade but against what he deems unfair trade practices — usually anything that involves China. He professes to be worried about U.S. budget deficits.
He is for kittens and against deadbeat dads and kids using drugs. And he revealed his essential smallness when he introduced fellow Hoosier John Roberts at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, then voted against him after liberal special interests flexed their fundraising muscles.
BY PICKING BAYH, Obama would avoid the pitfall that Michael Dukakis fell into when he asked Lloyd Bentsen to be his running mate in 1988.
There’s no way that Bayh, who delivered the most boring Democratic convention keynote address in recent memory in 1996, is capable of overshadowing Obama. The pick could put into play the 11 electoral college votes of a state that hasn’t voted for the Democratic nominee since 1964.
Skeptics will point out that running mates don’t have the greatest record of securing their own states in the general election — especially recently. John Edwards didn’t put John Kerry over the top in North Carolina, Jack Kemp didn’t win New York for Bob Dole, and Bentsen didn’t convince Texans to take to Dukakis. They’re right but in a close election, it is crazy to argue that it wouldn’t help to have a politician on the ticket who has already won several statewide elections.
Besides, Indiana pols were made for the office. The state is second only to New York in the number of vice presidents it has sent to D.C. It even has a museum in Quayle’s hometown of Huntington to celebrate this star spangled achievement, and State Road 9 is nicknamed the Highway of Vice Presidents because three of the state’s five VPs lived in cities along the route.
Evan Bayh has already said that if asked to be Obama’s running mate, he’ll accept. But given the history of Hoosier veeps, he might want to have second thoughts. The vice presidency is a much better springboard to the presidency than most people would ever expect. Fourteen of our 43 presidents were first vice president.
Not one of them came from Indiana.
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