Confessions of a Hoosier Democrat

Blogging Indiana Politics and the 2008 Presidential Race.

Friday, April 28, 2006

In the news...

Sen Bayh continues to get a mention in's The Situation... he's mentioned as one of the DLCers who's going to speak in the national DLC Convention in Denver.

Sen Bayh was annointed the Democratic nominee by the UVa Cavalier Daily's Josh Levy. It's notable because he picks Bayh over fmr VA Gov Mark Warner (his pick for VP).

National Journal has their latest WH '08 Rankings out... They compare Sen Bayh to the tortise (as I've done MANY times). We remember who won the race between the tortise and the hare. They have him ranked at #3 (up from #4).

Finally it's getting to be commencement season. DePauw University's seniors have selected Sen Bayh to give their commencement address. DePauw University is a small, prestigious liberal arts university in Greencastle, IN. DePauw ranks high in a number of categories in US News and World Report's annual rankings of colleges.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Five questions with Senator Bayh

Courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Indiana senator puts focus of '08 election on practicalities
Posted: April 22, 2006

Indiana senator and possible Democratic presidential candidate Evan Bayh will hold a private political fund-raiser in Milwaukee on Monday. He spoke with Craig Gilbert, chief of the Journal Sentinel's Washington Bureau.

Q: What's your message to Democrats who want to win back the presidency?

A: We need to make the election about the future, about the challenges that face the American people. That deals with national security during these uncertain times and decreasing our energy dependency. It involves getting our fiscal house in order, creating good jobs . . . (It's to) not make it about left versus right. Make it about practical things that matter in people's lives.

Q: What was the biggest lesson of the Democrats' defeat in 2004?

A: That in a post-9-11 world, we've got to be both tough and smart on national security. We can't change the subject or run from that debate. We need to make the case that this administration has damaged our national security, but we can do better.

Q: What does a Democrat learn from being elected in a red state?

A: Out of the last 17 presidential elections, Republicans have carried my state 16 times . . . Winning California by more and New York by more is not going to get us where we want go. It's going to take winning the Wisconsins and the Indianas. You've got to be a good steward of our nation's security. You've got to be fiscally responsible. You've got to understand that good jobs and a growing economy is the foundation on which we build everything else. And, finally, on some of the cultural issues, you can't be condescending and elitist in your approach.

Q: Wisconsin has another potential '08 candidate, your colleague Russ Feingold. What do you think of Feingold's proposal to censure the president?

A: I share his deep concerns about the policies of this administration . . . I don't think (censure) will change the administration's policies. I understand the thoughts and emotions that motivate it, and I share his ultimate objective. I just don't think it will help us win the November election. On the contrary, I think Karl Rove will use it to fire up the (GOP) base.

Q: If all else failed to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, should the U.S. consider using military force?

A: I think it's premature to make that decision today. . . . What I think we need to do with regard to Iran is try and work with allies to freeze their financial assets, have a travel embargo, an embargo of important commodities in their economy, to try to get them to change their minds without having to resort to force . . . If that doesn't work, you have a hard decision to make. I think a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pragmatic politics of Indiana

Excellent read from the Philadelphia Enquirer...

Pragmatic politics of Indiana

Understanding Hoosiers may be key for national Democrats.

By Paul Nussbaum
Inquirer Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS - Hoosiers finally changed their clocks this month, after decades of year-round standard time. Now, will they change their voting habits?

The last time Indiana voted for a Democrat for president was 1964, in the Lyndon Johnson landslide. And the time before that was 1936, when Franklin D. Roosevelt carried every state but Maine and Vermont.

But as national Democrats search for enough red-state votes to win the White House in 2008, there may be lessons to learn from this deeply crimson Midwestern bastion of Republicanism.

After all, Indiana voters handed Democratic senator Evan Bayh 62 percent of their vote in 2004, even as they gave President Bush 60 percent.

Bayh, who is trying to become a viable presidential contender for 2008, says the political alchemy of turning red voters blue is something that Democrats can master.

"If the voters know you and trust you, they'll vote for you regardless of the party," Bayh said. "People in Indiana care about practical things... they want to know, 'How does this affect my life?' "

A Democrat who understands the pragmatic sensibilities of Indiana may be able to appeal to red-state voters elsewhere.

"You want to disavow labels and project centrist attitudes," said former congressman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat who represented a southern Indiana district for 34 years, then served as vice chairman of the 9/11 commission. "Hoosiers pride themselves on being people of moderation and common sense."

What plays well here: God, country, civility, and an economy of emotion and pocketbook. Hunting, fishing, and auto racing are almost as popular as basketball.

What doesn't play: taxes, daylight saving time, change, unseemly ambition, showiness.

With deep rural roots, even though most of its residents have left the farm behind, Indiana is suspicious of big-city flash. Even the booming Indianapolis area is more a big small city than metropolitan giant.

Indiana's conservatism - like that of much of the Midwest - is different from conservatism in the South.

"It's very dissimilar to a Southern red state," said Billy Linville, a national political consultant who grew up in Indiana, graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, and now lives in Atlanta.

"Southerners focus on the social hot-button issues, like abortion and gay marriage," Linville said. "But Indiana, like Iowa or Wisconsin or Ohio, is more interested in the traditional Republican issues - balancing the budget, integrity in government. It's a much more humble kind of state."

Gary Crawley, a political science professor at Ball State, said strident candidates of either party don't fare well here. "Hillary Clinton wouldn't... and if you have a Jesse Helms type, that wouldn't sell so well in Indiana."

For voters such as Bob Kessler, 37, of Bloomington, competence is more important than any single issue.

"I could possibly vote for a Democrat for president - if a Democrat could not be extreme to the left but more of a moderate," he said, taking a break from shopping in the College Mall. "But I don't know if a Democrat could get the party stamp and still be somewhere in the middle."

Ruth Masiongale, a hospital administrator in Marion, said she usually votes Democratic. Her husband, David, a self-employed contractor, always votes Republican. Well, not always.

"I voted for George Wallace," he said. "He was Democrat, wasn't he?"

She thinks a Democratic presidential candidate could win here, "somebody who could connect with all levels of society." No way, said her husband.

Sarah Wilson, publisher of the Rochester Sentinel, a 5,000-circulation daily newspaper in northern Indiana, said a Democrat's chances "would depend on who the Republican was." She said, "If Hillary Clinton was a Republican, a Democrat would have a chance."

William A. Blomquist, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, said a moderate Democrat like Bayh or former Virginia governor Mark Warner could have a fighting chance of carrying Indiana, though he put the odds as "less than 50-50."

"The biggest danger the Democrats have is nominating somebody the Republicans could paint as some kind of a nut," Blomquist said. "Evan Bayh doesn't seem like a nut."

Bayh, 50, the son of former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, served two terms as governor before winning his father's old Senate seat in 1998. He has succeeded in red-state Indiana by being tough on national security (he voted for the war in Iraq), tough on taxes (he didn't raise taxes during his eight years as governor) and successful at budget-balancing and job-creation.

He supports abortion rights but voted twice to ban so-called partial-birth abortions. And he has not strayed far from the middle on anything - the most oft-used adjective to describe him is "cautious."

"He's more comfortable taking the layup than the three-pointer," said Brian Howey, who publishes a political newsletter here. "He doesn't go out on a limb."

Howey said there "is a suspicion in the middle of the country about coastal liberals." He said, "Bayh and others from the middle of the country may have a better feeling for the gray areas... they're not as polarizing."

Bayh says it's vital for Democrats to seek common ground with Republicans and to be seen as strong on national security if they want to do well in Indiana or other red states.

"If people don't trust us with their lives, we don't even get to have a debate about the other issues. We have to demonstrate we're fiscally responsible... we need to prove we understand people work hard for their money.

"And there are some attitudinal things... too many national Democrats have a whiff of moral superiority about them. They come across as condescending. People will never vote for you if they think you're looking down your nose at them.

"And they have to show that they understand that people of faith are not monolithic. People of faith care about jobs, schools and health care... they're not just one-issue voters."

But the very things that make Democrats like Bayh palatable to red-state voters are likely to work against him with the more liberal Democratic faithful who vote in the party's primaries.

"He personifies the conservatism of the Midwest... and those qualities are the qualities that harm him in the Democratic race for president," Linville said.


EB at the Harvard Business School

Senator Bayh Stresses Need For Unity

“Washington has just broken down,” says Indiana Democrat at HBS Speech

Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat and potential 2008 presidential candidate, emphasized the importance of bringing together the American people across party and ideological lines in a speech at the Harvard Business School (HBS) yesterday afternoon.

The senator told a room of over 100 onlookers that “Washington has just broken down—it is verging on the dysfunctional.”
For America to address these issues, Bayh said that the federal government must reduce its partisanship “because America is at its strongest and its best, not when it is divided in red and blue states but when it is united.”
“Frankly, [Republicans] are better at scaring people than we are,” he said.

One HBS student asked about Bayh’s views on the Massachusetts bill passed last week, establishing nearly universal health care coverage.

“I’m inclined to think it’s a good thing,” he said. “Massachusetts may not be exactly analogous to the other 49 states, but I think it is a step in the right direction.”
“He took questions at face value,” said Patrick Connelly, a second-year joint JD and MBA student.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bayh in Michigan!

Sen Bayh was the keynote at Michigan's JJ Dinner this past weekend...

Bayh addresses Michigan Democrats

Hoosier says GOP has been lax on security and trade

Associated Press Writer

DETROIT -- Michigan Democrats assembled Saturday to
gear up for the November election, getting
encouragement from the party's top state leaders and a
potential 2008 presidential candidate.

"The Republicans and the Bush administration have got
to be swept out of power this November," U.S. Sen.
Carl Levin said during the Democrats' annual
Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner at Detroit's Cobo Center.

In the keynote speech, Sen. Evan Bayh, of Indiana,
urged Democrats to tell voters about their strengths
on national security, saying President Bush and the
Republican Party have used the issue more for
political gain than sound policy reasons.

"While they may have won some elections, the American
people have lost valuable ground," Bayh said.

Bayh has said he is seriously considering a run for
the White House, and he is expected to make a decision
after this year's midterm elections.

The two-term senator and former Indiana governor also
accused Republicans of being lax in enforcing trade
laws and giving China an unfair edge over domestic

Bayh said Chinese automaker Chery Automobile Co. --
which may sell models in the United States as early as
2007 -- copied a Chevrolet vehicle designed by General
Motors Corp.

"If that's true, those Cherys can sit on the dock and
rust," he said.

GM and Chery last year settled a dispute in which GM
had accused Chery of pirating the design of its Spark
minicar, which looks similar to the Chery QQ. The
company also has agreed not to market its vehicles
under the name Chery in the United States.

The $150-per-person fundraiser also featured speeches
from Gov. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sen. Debbie
Stabenow, first-term Democratic officeholders who are
up for re- election this year. Democrats want to hold
onto those offices and win enough seats from
Republicans to take control of the Legislature.

About 2,000 people attended the dinner.

Jobs and the economy have been the leading issue in
Michigan, which has one of the nation's highest
unemployment rates and has lost about 180,000
manufacturing jobs since 2000. The U.S. auto industry
has been in the midst of a restructuring that is
expected to ripple through the state's economy for

"Democrats are the ones fighting to keep jobs here,"
Granholm said in her speech. "Democrats are the ones
fighting for fair trade."

Republicans blame Granholm for the state's economic
woes, arguing that heavy manufacturing states like
Indiana and Pennsylvania have started to rebound while
Michigan's unemployment rate remains high.

"This is a great opportunity for the governor to
explain to the people of Michigan why we're losing one
job every 20 minutes," state GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis
said Saturday. "At some stage, she's got to accept

Anuzis also defended Bush's record on national

"Everybody is doing the best job they can getting the
war on terror under control," Anuzis said. "The
Democratic solution is basically to complain. They've
offered no new proposals. It's very easy to take cheap

Granholm's likely opponent in November, Republican
businessman Dick DeVos, already has spent more than $2
million on air time for television ads since Feb. 16,
according to the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance

Granholm said DeVos does not represent average people,
and she noted that Democrats led the push to increase
the state's minimum wage -- the first raise in nine

"We are not highfalutin' millionaires, we are
middle-class families," she said.

At the end of his speech, Bayh sought to portray
himself as the kind of conservative Democrat who could
win conservative-leaning states. He talked about how
Bush won Indiana by 21 percentage points in 2004,
while Bayh defeated his opponent by 24 percentage