Evan Bayh, the centrist former Indiana senator trying to take his old seat back this year, has finally seen his lead fully collapse. When he announced he would run earlier this year, Bayh was ahead by double digits, largely based on name recognition. That lead had fallen into midsingle digits by early-mid-October. A Monmouth poll late last week put Bayh in a tie with his Republican challenger, Rep. Todd Young. Friday’s latest survey from WTHR and Howey Politics Indiana gives Young a five percentage point lead, 46 to 41. “Bayh lost 3 points since an earlier WTHR/HPI Indiana poll in September,” WTHR writes, “while Young has gained 6 points.”
Don’t count Bayh out yet. This, again, is the first public poll to show him trailing, and the same poll shows him ahead among early voters. If he does lose, though, it’s going to be so, so very deserved.
Bayh retired in 2010 with a smarmy New York Times column about how the polarized Senate was no longer any fun for him. He told then–Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein that he thought he “could make a bigger difference in a different capacity,” perhaps by teaching at a university. The capacity he selected to make his difference in, though, was as a “strategic adviser” at law, lobbying, and consulting firm McGuireWoods; a senior adviser at private equity firm Apollo Global Management; a board member of “Fifth Third Bank, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Berry Plastics Corporation, RLJ Lodging Trust, and McGraw Hill Education”; a “road show” pitchman, alongside former President George W. Bush chief of staff Andy Card, for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and a contributor to Fox News. Not bad, professor.
At this point the stories about Bayh have ventured into farce. He got his own Indianapolis address wrong. The Associated Press reported that he did not spend one night in his Indianapolis condo in 2010 but did make “four taxpayer-funded trips to New York between September and November 2010," which "revolved largely around meetings with a veritable who's who of American banking and finance, as well as a job headhunter.” Bayh owns two multimillion-dollar homes in Washington, D.C. Eight-eight percent of Young’s ads have been negative ones about Bayh. Why so few?
Bayh is the dictionary definition of the political establishment against whom much hay has been made this cycle. For the Democrats out there who don’t like Hillary Clinton and aren’t looking forward to casting a lesser-of-two-evils vote, know that it could be 10 times worse: You could be a Democrat in Indiana, who “has to” vote for Evan Bayh. And yet, Evan Bayh would almost certainly vote for Hillary Clinton’s nominee to the Supreme Court, who may only be called up for a vote if Democrats control the Senate. The Supreme Court having a ninth justice seated in the next four years may well depend on Democrats and plenty of independents in Indiana pushing a button next to the name "Evan Bayh."