The question yesterday was whether dark-horse candidate Tamyra d’Ippolito would get enough signatures by the end of business today to ruin the plans of Evan Bayh and qualify for the primary ballot, making her the default Democratic nominee for his Senate seat. The question today is whether the Bayh announcement was an elaborate Kabuki dance meant to eliminate any primary competition for the White House’s handpicked successor to Bayh. d’Ippolito accused Rahm Emanuel of having colluded with Rep. Baron Hill weeks ago to quietly gather signatures in order to make the filing deadline today, and wants a lawyer to help expose the conspiracy:
Hoosier politics took an unexpected turn Monday night when Democratic Senate candidate Tamyra d’Ippolito accused the White House of conspiring with party officials to secretly draft Rep. Baron Hill to run against her. …
However, d’Ippolito said she was informed Monday that Hill, a blue dog who represents Indiana’s 9th District in the House, already has the necessary signatures and is sitting on them until the deadline. She accused White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel of colluding with Hill and the Democratic party county chairs to secretly supplant her as the nominee.
“I can’t confirm so I’m working feverishly to find out if this is the deal. If it is, there’s something unethical going on in Indiana politics,” d’Ippolito said. She then referenced Emanuel’s Jan. 9 appearance at a fundraiser for Hill in Bloomington and accused the president’s top political aide of playing kingmaker during that visit.
“Don’t you find that strange, Rahm Emanuel coming to Indiana?” she asked, adding that Emanuel was sent by the White House to “find a blue dog to put into power.”
D’Ippolito said she asked mutual friends to contact Hill repeatedly on Monday, without success. Hill’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday evening. If true, she called the arrangement “a setup”.
If it’s true, it would be unclear what laws the White House would have broken. Presidents often get involved in encouraging candidates to run for national office or governorships, and sometimes to discourage them as well. Those efforts almost always take place behind the scenes. About the only thing a lawyer could do would be to help plot out a campaign attack on Hill during the primary.
That being said, if the White House conspired with Bayh and Hill to game the timing to exclude any other primary challengers, that would be a particularly cynical ploy for any politician, let alone The One who campaigned on Hope and Change. It smacks of kingmaking of the most unsubtle kind, and an arrogance that would certainly be in character for both this President and his Chief of Staff. Indiana Democrats would rightly object to the specter of a President denying them the right to choose their nominee for the election.
It also sounds like this strategy would be perfectly suited for Baron Hill, who has trouble remembering his first name is not his title:
Meanwhile,d’Ippolito continues to push hard for the necessary 4500 signatures, plus some in reserve as a hedge against challenges. On her Facebook page, d’Ippolito brags about getting an outreach from the progressive grassroots fundraisers ActBlue, but also wants to show her independent streak by reaching out to, er, teabaggers:
We are calling all people to file signatures tomorrow Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Tea Baggers, everyone with a pulse go to your county clerks office tomorrow before noon in your district.
It doesn’t sound as if d’Ippolito knows anything about the Tea Party movement that she hasn’t heard from Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Anderson Cooper. That’s something for Tea Partiers to keep in mind when considering her outreach to the Right, although having her on the ballot for the primary and possibly the general election sounds like a big win either way.