Turnabout is fair play. Republicans got Dan Coats to come out of retirement to return to the US Senate after retiring as US ambassador to Germany in 2005. Coats only served one term before retiring again, leaving Republicans with an open seat to defend in what was already going to be a tough cycle for the NRSC. Until today, former Rep. Baron Hill was the presumed Democratic nominee, but Hill has bowed out in order to bring back retired Sen. Evan Bayh, according to CNN’s Tom LoBianco:
Bayh stunned Democrats in 2010 when he left the Indiana Senate race after being named the nominee. Indiana Democrats picked then-U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth to fill the Senate slot on the ballot, but he lost to Coats in the 2010 tea party wave.
In an interesting reversal, Indiana Democrats will now have to formally place Bayh’s name on the ballot after nominee Hill announces he is stepping out of the race — something Hill did on Facebook on Monday morning.
“I am also a proud Democrat who wants to see an Indiana Democrat fighting for Hoosier families alongside Senator Joe Donnelly in the U.S. Senate,” Hill wrote. “And, I want to do everything in my power to ensure a U.S. Senate that will govern responsibly. That is why, after consulting with my family, my staff and party leaders, I am withdrawing from the U.S. Senate race and removing my name from the November ballot.”
Democrats had looked at this as a possible lost opportunity. Republicans have a well-regarded nominee in Todd Young, who edged out fellow Congressman Marlin Stutzman in the primary. Hill is best remembered for his shocking treatment of a constituent during a 2009 town-hall meeting during the August recess. With public debate over ObamaCare at a fever pitch, the constituent brought a camera to record Hill’s response to questions, at which point Hill reminded voters who’s in charge
This is my town hall meeting, and I set the rules. I’ve had these rules — [booing] — Uh, let me repeat that one more time. This is my town-hall meeting for you. And you’re not going to tell me how to run my Congressional office. Now, the reason why I don’t allow filming is because usually the films that are done end up on YouTube in a compromising position.
Hill tried running for re-election the next year, but Young beat him by 23,000 votes and ten points. The rematch might not have gone much better for Hill, which is presumably why the relatively young (61 years old) Bayh has been enticed to re-enter the race.
That’s not going to make every Democrat happy. When Bayh retired, he went into business as a Washington DC lobbyist:
Strictly on political skill: Bayh has statewide name ID, that's it. He's also the epitome of what populists hate — move to DC, cash in.
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) July 11, 2016
— noah kulwin (@nkulw) July 11, 2016
At the time, Bayh said he wanted to return to teaching in Indiana. Ezra Klein noted in 2011 that it didn’t take long for the money to change Bayh’s mind:
For a United States senator to explain his retirement by saying, “I want to be engaged in an honorable line of work,” was the single most persuasive and devastating critique I’d ever seen of the Senate as an institution.
But Bayh did not return to Indiana to teach. He did not, as he said he was thinking of doing, join a foundation. Rather, he went to the massive law firm McGuire Woods. And who does McGuire Woods work for? “Principal clients served from our Washington office include national energy companies, foreign countries, international manufacturing companies, trade associations and local and national businesses,” reads the company’s Web site. He followed that up by signing on as a senior adviser to Apollo Management Group, a giant public-equity firm. And, finally, this week, he joined Fox News as a contributor. It’s as if he’s systematically ticking off every poison he identified in the body politic and rushing to dump more of it into the water supply.
The “corrosive system of campaign financing” that Bayh considered such a threat? He’s being paid by both McGuire Woods and Apollo Global Management to act as a corroding agent on their behalf. The “strident partisanship” and “unyielding ideology” he complained was ruining the Senate? At Fox News, he’ll be right there on set while it gets cooked up. His warning that “what is required from members of Congress and the public alike is a new spirit of devotion to the national welfare beyond party or self-interest” sounds, in retrospect, like a joke. Evan Bayh doing performance art as Evan Bayh. Exactly which of these new positions would Bayh say is against his self-interest, or in promotion of the general welfare?
That makes this valedictory complaint from Hill rather hollow:
“While our campaign had been making great progress and building momentum all over Indiana, it is simply not enough to fight back against the slew of out-of-state special interest and dark money that is certain to come our way between now and November,” Hill said in a statement.
Looks like Indiana voters will be in for more “performance art” over the next four months. When Hillary Clinton has the chutzpah to complain about special interests and lobbyists in Washington DC, will the media ask her to explain why her party chose to rescue itself from Baron Hill by trawling K Street?