Evan Bayh decided to call it quits in a decidedly weird and sudden way yesterday. According to the New York Times Caucus Blog
The decision, which he announced at an afternoon press conference, came as a surprise to Democrats in his state who had already started working on his campaign.
In his remarks, Mr. Bayh expressed frustration at what he described as an increasingly polarized atmosphere in Washington that made it impossible to get anything done.
“For some time, I have had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should,” he said. “There is much too much partisanship and not enough progress. Too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem solving.”
And while he complimented his colleagues in the Senate, he said that “the institution is in need of significant reform.”
And so the Democrats will lose the Senator “least likely to vote with his party this Congress.”
The scramble to replace him on the ballot in the fall is on. The deadline for filing to get on the ballot was today. (Nice timing there Senator!) and no Democrat qualified. I don’t know Indiana politics, but it seems unlikely that the primary date and thus the filing date will be moved. So the state Dems say they can choose their candidate.
Again, the Times
Now Democrats say they can select their choice, and attention has focused mainly on Representative Brad Ellsworth, a Democrat from Evansville, as well as Representative Baron Hill, Democrat of Seymour. Party officials say they are also exploring other, less well-known names.
One problem is that both Mr. Ellsworth and Mr. Hill plan to qualify this week as House candidates. Republicans say it will not be proper if they do so only to later pull out to run for Senate, leaving Republicans with their House and Senate candidates while Democrats play political musical chairs.
To Republicans, that approach is not quite fair and means that Democrats could actually gain some advantage by Mr. Bayh pulling out just before the deadline for qualifying and allowing Democrats to avoid a Senate primary.
Got that? If the Republicans are right, maybe Mr. Least Likely to vote with the Dems has actually done something right.
John Nichols over at the Nation is reporting a rumor that some in Indiana are promoting John Mellencamp for Senate.
The guy who put populist politics on the charts with a song title “Pink Houses” John Mellencamp performed at the White House last week, as part of a program titled: “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement.”
The Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame member sang the song “Jim Crow” with veteran folkie Joan Baez — as well as a terrific song version of “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” — on a night that also featured performances by Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole, Yolanda Adams, the Five Blind Boys from Alabama and Bob Dylan, among others.
That was powerful company, but Mellencamp was up to it.
For the past quarter century, he has been penning and performing smart, often very political songs — focusing on the farm crisis, economic hard times and race relations. He’s been a key organizer of Farm Aid and other fund-raising events for good causes, and he’s been a steady presence on the campaign trail in recent years, appearing at the side of numerous Democratic presidential candidates, including Barack Obama.
So, could Mellencamp perform in the U.S. Senate?
Could he be the right replacement for retiring Senator Evan Bayh, D-Indiana?
Don’t forget that Minnesota just elected Al Franken.
Mellencamp certainly has the home-state credibility. Few rockers have been so closely associated with a state as Mellencamp with Indiana.
Mellencamp has a history of issue-oriented political engagement that is the rival of any of the Democratic politicians who are being considered as possible Bayh replacements.
And Mellencamp has something else. He has a record of standing up for disenfranchised and disenchanted working-class families in places like his hometown of Seymour, Indiana.
In other words, he’s worthy of the consideration that has led to talk of a “Draft John Mellencamp” movement. In fact, he might be just enough of an outlier to energize base votes and to make independent voters look again at the Democratic column.
Could we end up with Senators Franken and Mellencamp? We can dream anyway.