The Evansville Courier & Press is reporting that second-term Congressman Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) will run for Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-Ind.) seat this year. The Indiana Democratic Party’s 32-member central committee is set to pick a replacement for Bayh in the general election, as he withdrew without giving anyone time to gather signatures to replace him on the primary ballot.
On paper, Ellsworth would be a strong candidate. He will run on a pro-life, pro-gun, anti-amnesty for illegal immigrants platform, defusing some of the hot-button issues Republicans could use against him. He has already won twice in the “Bloody Eighth,” one of Indiana’s swing districts. And he has already beaten one of the candidates running for the Republican nomination, former Congressman John Hostettler, by a landslide 61 percent to 39 percent margin in 2006.
Here’s the downside: In 2006, Ellsworth was sheriff in Vanderburgh County and had no legislative voting record. Now he has one that includes votes for the $787 billion stimulus package and the House Democratic health care bill — afte compromises in both cases, true, but neither bill was popular as passed. Second, Ellsworth got to run against George W. Bush in 2006. In 2010, the Republicans will be running against Barack Obama.
Accordingly, a Rasmussen poll already shows both Ellsworth and Congressman Baron Hill (D-Ind.) getting trounced by all three declared Republicans (hat tip: Swing State Project). Ellsworth actually fares worse in a rematch against Hostettler, taking just 27 percent of the vote, than he does against former Sen. Dan Coats. Some of this comes down to who Rasmussen thinks will turn out — their polls showed Evan Bayh in trouble while Daily Kos/Research 2000 showed him safe, all based on different turnout assumptions — but there are good reasons to think that the 2010 electorate will be more conservative than the 2008 voters who narrowly delivered Indiana to Obama.
Finally, House Democrats are worried that they’ll lose Ellsworth’s seat if he runs for Senate rather than for reelection in the Eighth Congressional District.
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