Evan Bayh’s decision not to run for re-election this year not only hurts Democrat chances of retaining any clear Senate majority, but robs them of one of their moderating influences. If the Democrats hold 51 seats in January 2011, what will that majority agenda look like?
Bayh has helped temper more liberal policies, from business regulation to health care. Other retirees, like Chris Dodd, and troubled incumbents, like Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid, have shared that role at various times in their careers. Perhaps the likes of Mark Warner or Max Baucus can fill that void – or, perhaps the diminished moderate ranks are quieter in the gridlock that comes from having less than 60 votes.
But maybe the most telling story about the relationship between Democrats and the electorate comes from the curious primary challenger Bayh faced – a fringe candidate who claims to be closing in on the signature requirements which would make her an official candidate. If true, Tamyra D’Ippolito – who claims the state party is an “old boys’ club” – would have a cakewalk to the nomination. If she misses the cut (which happens at noon today), state party officials could hand-pick a better-funded, better-known candidate to run in Bayh’s place.
If you’re scoring at home, that means the state Democratic party would like to select their candidate with as little democracy as possible. As Republicans in New York’s 23rd Congressional District can attest, that’s a recipe for disaster.