Opinion

Predicting Bayh’s next move

Lenny McAllister Contributor

People will build up the story for the next couple of days—a theme already being echoed throughout the communication channels that make up political chatter.

2009 was a bad year for centrists in a highly politicized Washington.

Moderate Democrats were the ones to face the wrath of a nation growing weary of minimal results and continued in-fighting on Capitol Hill.

Therefore, Bayh’s retirement should come as no surprise, the thinking goes. It was due, especially now that information is coming forward that his staff had heard speculation of his pending retirement for several months.

However, there is more to this than meets the eye.

A man that again professes to be an “…executive at heart…” has to be considered more “retired” than as one fully settled in removing himself from the politics of the day, particularly one that has been mentioned as a vice presidential nominee for the past three presidential election cycles. A man that comes from legacy—both his family (his father was a U.S. senator that ran for the presidency) and his own (a two-term stint as governor of Indiana as well as his current two-term incumbency as the junior senator in Washington)—will not likely fade into political oblivion at a time when people are searching for steady political leaders at every turn. At only 54 years of age, Bayh brings to the conversation a considerable amount of credibility, experience, and centrism that would him well as a leader hailing from Middle America.

That is, Indiana—a red state that supported a Democrat for the Senate for 12 years.

Indiana—in many ways, a symbol for the grassroots Americans that are suffering in the unemployment lines (Elkhart County, Ind., a town visited by President Obama last year, posted an unemployment rate that approached 20 percent) and protesting using old-school methods (i.e., one of the basic appeals of the Tea Party movement.)

Indiana—a state that borders two high-impact swing states for presidential elections: Michigan and Ohio, states that would be crucial (especially Ohio) in determining the next presidential election.

Particularly for a centrist-leaning Republican that is young and experienced—the perfect blend of executive experience and congressional angst that could defeat a weakened President Obama should this national trend of economic and legislative lethargy continue for another two years.

So, don’t be surprised if Even Bayh considers becoming a Republican at some point in 2010, just in time to run for the presidency.

In a Republican presidential field that has yet to find a clear-cut choice within its ranks, a Bayh defection would immediately give the GOP a viable and popular candidate that could garner voters on both sides of the aisle while allowing the Republicans to claim a victory in the battle to claim political moral authority. In a stunning 12-month reversal of fortune, the Republicans could claim the upper hand in an Arlen Specter-for-Evan Bayh political swap, especially considering that the Democrats claimed a supermajority with the help of Specter but could do nothing with it, yet a Bayh defection could swing the outcome of the 2012 presidency along with key congressional races along with it. Further, with Bayh, the Republicans could find solace in a former Democrat that has a record of standing against President Obama’s liberal record (a stance that goes back to his endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy in 2007) and the current administration’s stance on taxes, health care mandates, and big government advancement—much like the Republicans rallied around another former Democrat to reclaim the White House at a pressing time in America:

Ronald Reagan.

For those that believe that this possibility is far-fetched forget the political reality of the past 24 months:

• Sen. Arlen Specter became a Democrat after being an elected Republican officeholder for 44 years;

• Republican Scott Brown overcame a 30-point deficit in blue-state Massachusetts to win the seat held by the “Liberal Lion of the Senate,” the late Edward M. Kennedy;

• A former comedian from Saturday Night Live became the junior senator from the state of Minnesota;

• A movement full of grassroots activists took an old concept and created a new national wave of political involvement that has lasted more than one year;

• The 2008 vice presidential candidate (and oft-mentioned 2012 Republican presidential hopeful) was a two-year governor from a far-away state who has now gained superstar status; and, of course

• A little-known one-term U.S. senator with a funny name, an interesting past, and a catchy slogan became the first African-American president in our nation’s history—with a little help in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

The way politics has been done for years has been thrown out the window in today’s political climate, so at this point, any political play is game for 2012, especially for a career politician whose only goal to chase is the presidency. With no love lost between President Obama and himself (highlighted by the “Why should the Democratic Party be trusted?” question from Bayh to the president last week), a ripe field on the Republican side of the aisle, and political capital in store (both in terms of money and credibility as a fiscally-minded moderate), a political maneuver consistent with the times may soon come out of the Bayh camp with another surprise announcement: a switch to the Republican Party that could enable his presidential dreams to come true.

After all, it would allow Bayh to make a conservative play that allows him to go deep—perhaps all the way to the White House in a short period of time. Therefore, any hand-off from Democratic affiliation to the GOP would hardly be the razzle-dazzle move that it may seem to be at first glance, especially considering the state of American politics since 2008.

Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the author of the book, “Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative,)” purchased online at www.tinyurl.com/lennysdiary and www.amazon.com. He has been featured on XM Radio’s “The New School”, WVON Chicago, and Fox News’ “Glenn Beck” among others.