We all know the names of the Democratic Senators who face tough re-election runs in 2010: Lincoln, Reid, Specter, Bennet, Dodd, and maybe Gillibrand and Dorgan and a few others. One of the names that’s not usually on the list is Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. While Bayh represents a state that will probably turn reliably red again, he has carefully cultivated a reputation as a moderate. His surname is probably as popular as any in Indiana. And it’s not clear if his Republican opponent will be able to raise the money to make this a real race.
But one thing that’s likely to make this race more competitive would be if the voters of Indiana realize that he’s been playing them for suckers when it comes to Obamacare:
Bayh, the moderate former Indiana governor, has always enjoyed support among many of the state’s conservative residents, but his vote for the Senate Democratic health care bill last week may endanger that support.
Obviously, he is aware of the challenge. Courier & Press staff writer Eric Bradner reported Sunday that Bayh had released a 700-plus word statement in which he attempted to explain what a tough decision it was to vote for the health bill.
However, Bradner reported also that according to The New York Times and Roll Call, Bayh told fellow Senate Democrats behind closed doors that it was the kind of public policy decision he came to Washington to work on.
Also, he was reported to have said that he did not want to see the satisfied looks on the faces of Republican legislators had the health reform bill failed.
The question, now is how he will react to the angry looks on the faces of Indiana constituents who did not support the Senate health care bill.
Bayh’s behind-the-scenes work in support of Obamacare was likely critical in winning the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. Instead of joining with Democrats like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln to put the brakes on the health care overhaul, Bayh was carrying water for Harry Reid. Instead of Reid facing a bloc of holdout moderates, he was able to buy off Lincoln and Nelson rather easily. And all the while Bayh was telling his constituents that he was conflicted about the bill, and might vote against.
We also see that Bayh looks at the health care system not as one with challenges that need fixing, but as a chance to deliver Democrats a big political victory. Rather than being motivated by a desire to ensure his constituents get the best possible care, Bayh’s priority is to make sure that Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and the Senate Democrats get a political win.
In a state like Indiana, and in a year like 2010, Bayh will have a lot to answer for.