Let me start by saying, I don’t buy it. If there’s an explanation for this that involves the presidency it is that most of Bayh’s career going back two decades anticipated an eventual running for the big office. And part of me thinks that at some point over the last two or three years he just realized that that simply was never going to happen.
But TPM Reader EH makes the case …
The most logical conclusion from Evan Bayh’s retirement today is that he wants to be the next President of the United States. With $13 million in the bank and great reelect numbers against fairly weak opponents, a third senate term seemed very likely. If you look at his career in the senate, it’s consistently marked by spotlight-grabbing antics, including his regular play to be the leader of some variation of the “Senate Blue Dog” caucus, which has ended in failure each time.
Whether it’s the DLC, the Centrist Democrats, the New Democrats, or the Blue Dogs, Evan Bayh has shown that he is desperate to have some sort of power in the senate as a leader of an ideological caucus. Bayh has proven through his words and his actions that he is frustrated with his relative lack of power in the senate (as many former governors do). Speaking of which, in January 2011 he will have 8 years of experience as a governor, and 12 years as a senator. In terms of an adequate resume, he’s already there.
Look at his quotes from after the Scott Brown election. “If you lose Massachusetts and that’s not a wake-up call, there’s no hope of waking up,” he said after the election. While this wasn’t uncommon for many members of the party following that election, I think it needs to be given more attention based on his retirement. This is a man that is already running for President. His platform is already written for him. He wants to be the moderate candidate who will, in his mind, will receive some Republican support. In my mind, the only question is whether he’s going to primary Obama in 2012 or whether he’s going to wait for the open race in 2016. The latter is more likely of course, but I wouldn’t rule out the former. Evan Bayh, at this point, is a national politician.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.