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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Indiana

Coats Sees Kagan, Miers Link

Dan Coats is all too familiar with the rigors of the confirmation process for Supreme Court choices, having served as the so-called "sherpa" for President George W. Bush's second attempt to fill a seat. Coats ultimately helped navigate Samuel Alito to the bench, after seeing the previous choice, Harriet Miers, withdrawn.

coats.jpgElena Kagan heads to Capitol Hill today for her first "courtesy calls" with the senators who ultimately must will decide her fate. Coats, now running for to reclaim his former seat, said Tuesday she faces a similar challenge to the one Miers faced five years ago.

"She has very little record, and so unfortunately it's more of what she says, not more of what she has done," Coats told RCP in an interview Tuesday. "The irony is that Harriet Miers, the original appointee, was soundly criticized for not having a record with which to judge. ... It's ironic that the same Democrats who were trashing Harriet Miers for not having judicial experience are saying it doesn't matter."

It was criticism from both the left and right that doomed the Miers nomination, made when Republicans still had a majority in the Senate. Coats still argued there were similarities, saying in each nomination there was a woman "of substantial personal experience and not judicial experience." He declined to indicate how he might vote on Kagan if he were in the Senate today, saying he won't have access to the same information others will have. But he signaled that his philosophy on voting would be different now than it was when he did serve, voting in 1994 to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

"This whole idea of, 'Well the president has the prerogative of choosing who he wants,' ... I think those days are over," Coats said, pointing to an attempt to filibuster the Alito nomination. "I saw them trash Alito. If that's the game they want to play, that's the game we'll have to play."

Continue reading "Coats Sees Kagan, Miers Link" »

Except For N.C., Both Parties Win On Primary Night

North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall finished short of winning the 40 percent necessary to take the Democratic nomination and the right to challenge Republican Sen. Richard Burr. The result was the one aberration in an otherwise good night for the two national parties, which got their favored candidates in the other two states holding contested Senate primaries on Tuesday.

In Ohio, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher defeated Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in the Democratic primary and will face former Rep. Rob Portman in the general election. In Indiana, former Sen. Dan Coats won a competitive Republican primary and will likely take on Rep. Brad Ellsworth, whom Democratic leaders in the state are expected to select as their nominee next month.

The Ohio and Indiana seats are open following the retirements of Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.).

In North Carolina, Marshall received 36 percent, followed by Cal Cunningham with 27 percent and Ken Lewis with 17 percent. As the top two finishers, Marshall and Cunningham will face each other again in a June 22 runoff, a costly addition for Democrats who would rather turn their attention toward Burr.

The Marshall campaign has already requested that Cunningham drop out of the race in deference to Marshall winning a plurality of the votes.

Continue reading "Except For N.C., Both Parties Win On Primary Night" »

Indiana Republicans Battle For Conservative Mantle

In competitive primaries around the country, Republicans are attempting to prove they are the most conservative candidate in the race. Look no further than Arizona, where Sen. John McCain -- the party's presidential nominee just two years ago -- is being challenged by J.D. Hayworth for not being a "true" conservative.

The same thing is happening in Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist appears on the verge of exiting the race altogether because of the popularity of the more conservative Marco Rubio.

It's also true in the open seat race in Indiana, where former Sen. Dan Coats, former Rep. John Hostettler and state Sen. Marlin Stutzman continue to battle for the conservative mantle less than two weeks before the May 4 primary. Coats was recruited by the national party and is widely considered the favorite, but all three have led Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) in general election polling.

With Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) retiring, the eventual Republican nominee will be favored to win the general election. Before President Obama's 1-point victory in 2008, Indiana had voted Republican in all but three presidential elections dating back to 1928.

It's a culturally conservative state, and in general, more conservative Republicans turn out for midterm GOP primaries. To prove their conservative chops, each has unveiled a major endorsement in the past week. On Friday, Hostettler announced the support of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who has a nationwide network of supporters.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who was the first senator to publicly back Rubio, entered the fray on Tuesday by endorsing Stutzman and raising -- as of last night -- $77,000 for him through his Senate Conservatives Fund PAC, which supports only "rock solid conservatives."

"Marlin Stutzman can win this race," DeMint states in a fundraising solicitation. "He is surging in the polls and there is still time to elect a true conservative who will stand up to the establishment in both parties."

The Coats campaign responded by rolling out its own conservative endorsements this week: James Dobson, founder of the conservative group, Focus on the Family, and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who previously indicated his support for Coats weeks earlier when the former senator was set to enter the race.

"Dan Coats' integrity and conservative record make him the best candidate for the job," Pence stated in a press release. "Dan is a proven conservative leader who is trusted by Hoosiers."

When asked whether Pence would actively campaign or fundraise for Coats, a Coats spokesman responded simply: "Stay tuned."

Pence himself considered running for the seat, but declined before Bayh's retirement announcement. Bayh's exit, the landscape of the state and subsequent polling moved the seat into vulnerable territory for Democrats. RCP now ranks the race as Lean Republican.

It's Official: Ellsworth Enters Indiana Senate Race

Indiana Rep. Brad Ellsworth announced today that he will run for Senate, a decision that comes on the heels of Sen. Evan Bayh's surprise decision on Monday to retire. Because Bayh retired just before the filing deadline, Ellsworth will not need to run in a Democratic primary to win the nomination. The party's state central committee can simply name him the nominee following the May 4 primaries.

Here is Ellsworth's statement, announcing his candidacy:

"After many conversations with Hoosiers this week, and with the love and support of my family, I have decided to run for the U.S. Senate. "The best years of my life are the more than two decades I spent in the local Sheriff's department. Sheriff is a job that comes down to protecting families from harm, helping folks solve their problems or resolve their disputes, and just being willing to put your fellow citizens' best interests ahead of your own. When I look at the U.S. Senate these days, I sure think they could use more folks with those same qualities. And that's something I hope I could bring to the U.S. Senate - an independent voice to help Indiana through these tough economic times, and get things done for everyday folks who are really struggling."

The Democrat running for Ellsworth's House seat is State Rep. Trent Van Haaften, who filed the necessary paperwork this morning, the Indy Star reports.

IN Sen: D'Ippolito Misses Petition Deadline

Tamyra d'Ippolito did not receive the necessary petition signatures in order to qualify for running for Senate in Indiana, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party tells RealClearPolitics. D'Ippolito's inability to get 500 signatures from each of the state's nine congressional districts by today's noon deadline saves Democrats from being forced to rely on a politcal unknown and allows the party to hand-pick its nominee to succeed the retiring Evan Bayh.

Bayh's last-minute retirement announcement left potential candidates, such as Rep. Brad Ellsworth, unable to meet the deadline to turn in petitions, but also gave the party a dream scenario in which no costly or damaging primary is necessary. Once Friday's noon deadline for filing candidacy papers passes, the party's state central committee can meet to choose its nominee.

The Indy Star reports two Republican candidates for Senate -- State Sen. Marlin Stutzman and financial adviser Don Bates Jr. -- have officially filed the necessary paperwork with the secretary of state's office, while former Sen. Dan Coats, former Rep. John Hostettler and plumbing company owner Richard Behney say they have filed the necessary petition signatures.

Indiana Makes Senate Winnable For GOP

For a Democrat running in a Republican-leaning state in 2010, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh was in relatively good shape when he announced his retirement Monday afternoon. He had $13 million in the bank and a substantial lead in both public surveys and polling conducted by his campaign. Yet the second-term senator is stepping away from elected office for the first time in 24 years and becomes the fifth sitting Democratic senator not to run this year.

The news surprised both local and national Democrats, most of who only learned hours before -- some even after -- the news leaked out. He had completed the necessary paperwork to get on the ballot, and had recently polled the race. Still, a White House official with ties to Bayh said he had talked about the possibility of retiring "for years" and believed the decision truly had nothing to do with the increasingly perilous political environment.

Bayh said as much at a news conference Monday afternoon in Indianapolis.

"My decision was not motivated by a political concern," he said. "Even in the current challenging political environment, I am confident in my prospects for re-election."

Bayh's retirement instantly puts Indiana on a growing list of pick-up opportunities for the GOP this year. President Obama and Vice President Biden could see their former Senate seats in Illinois and Delaware go red, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country.

North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan is retiring and his seat is considered the GOP's for the taking, while Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln are in bad shape as well. Throw in the longer shot chances of scoring two upsets in the blue state trio of California, Wisconsin, and Washington, and Republicans can now visualize a path - albeit still a very difficult one - to recapturing a 51-49 majority in the upper chamber.

"The Indiana Senate seat is one that we will fight to hold onto," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.). "We will have a strong Democratic candidate on the ballot there."

Continue reading "Indiana Makes Senate Winnable For GOP" »

Indiana's Evan Bayh To Retire

A true shocker on this holiday: Sen. Evan Bayh (D) will not seek re-election, a Democratic source confirms. Washington Post's Chris Cillizza has the rationale:

"After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so by serving in Congress has waned," Bayh will say.

The news comes weeks after former Sen. Dan Coats (R) announced he would challenge Bayh. Initially seen as a strong threat, the DSCC and others had been successful in quickly advancing the narrative that Coats had lost touch with the Hoosier State after years in Washington, even pointing to a video in which he openly discusses possibly moving to North Carolina.

Bayh's decision is also stunning given how much money he had in the bank -- nearly $13 million after the latest fundraising period closed. Recent polling had shown Bayh ahead, though not necessarily comfortably.

To say that it will be a challenge for Democrats to hold the seat now is an understatement, and not just because of the political climate. According to the Indiana Secretary of State's Web site, the filing deadline for candidates to qualify for the primary ballot is this Friday. But to qualify, a candidate needed signed petitions from each of the state's Congressional Districts by tomorrow. That gives Democrats almost no time to find a replacement.

A Democratic source says that in the event of a vacancy, the state party could name a candidate later on. The source says to look at two current Democratic Congressman: Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill.

Week by week, it seems Republicans are closer to putting control of the Senate in play. This is the kind of stunner that ensures that is the case.

DSCC Takes First Stab At Coats

Breaking news last night was that former Republican senator Dan Coats was considering challenging Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D) this year. This morning, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee dropped its first hit on Coats, highlighting his work as a lobbyist.

"Dan Coats is a federally registered lobbyist whose client lists include banks, private equity firms, and defense contractors," said DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz. "Coats is a Washington DC insider who lined his own pockets as taxpayers spent $700 billion bailing out Wall Street banks. Indianans won't ignore Dan Coats' decade as a lobbyist working the system to gain special favors for the banking industry at the time of financial collapse and at the expense of working Americans."

Meanwhile, the man many saw as the GOP's best chance at defeating Bayh -- Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) -- issued a statement of support for Coats this morning.

"I am very excited about the possibility that former Senator Dan Coats may run for the United States Senate in 2010 and I sincerely hope he does it," said Pence. "His integrity and conservative record would make him the ideal candidate for Hoosiers. If he runs, I will support him."

UPDATE (11:45 a.m.): And the first oppo research has come in. Politico's Ben Smith reports Coats has been voting in Virginia for the past decade.

Reports: Coats Will Challenge Bayh In Indiana

Shocking news Tuesday night: As the political world focused on Illinois primaries, word that former Sen. Dan Coats (R) will announce his candidacy for Senate tomorrow in Indiana, challenging incumbent Evan Bayh.

From the site Howey Politics:

The source, former aide Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute, said that Coats knows he has about two weeks to gather the 4,500 signatures - 500 per Congressional district - in two weeks.

Coats was up for re-election in 1998 when he decided to retire, citing the pressures of constant fundraising. Bayh went on that year to defeat former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke to reclaim his father's Senate seat.

Politico has confirmed the report.

Coats was the ambassador to Germany under Pres. Bush. After returning from that assignment, he was last seen in the public spotlight as the "sherpa" for the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, and then Samuel Alito in 2005.

The Coats candidacy will certainly put major pressure on Bayh, but an important note for the incumbent: he has just under $13 million cash on hand, the third-most of all incumbents in the Senate through the 2009 filings.

Pence Discusses Decision Not To Challenge Bayh

Indiana Rep. Mike Pence (R) turned down this week a chance to challenge Sen. Evan Bayh (D) in what appears to be a good year for GOP challengers. A poll released Monday even found Pence, the third ranking Republican in the House, leading Bayh, a former two-term governor who's running for his third term in the Senate.

"It was easily the hardest political decision of my career," Pence said this morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "We ultimately came to the decision -- I'll leave it to people like you whether or not we would've been able to succeed in that race -- but for us in my role as chairman of the House Republican Conference, I just believe that my duty was right where I am right now, working with our team to restore a conservative majority to Capitol Hill."

Bayh's father, Birch Bayh, served three terms in the Senate before being defeated for re-election in 1980. Evan Bayh has won five statewide elections -- secretary of state in 1986, governor in 1988 and 1992, and senator in 1998 and 2004.

Meanwhile, Pence has moved up to the upper ranks of the House Republican Conference and would be giving up a chance to move even higher if he challenged Bayh -- especially if the GOP wins back the House this year, something Republicans believe they can do.

"I really believe that Republicans will retake the majority in 2010," Pence said this morning. "So it was really a choice for me of where could I make the most difference for the things that are most important to me this year, and our family believed that was to stay in the House."
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Pence Won't Challenge Bayh, Says GOP Will Take Back House

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) has decided not to run for U.S. Senate this fall, despite the urging of fellow Republicans and a new poll that showed he could beat incumbent Evan Bayh.

In a letter to supporters and colleagues, Pence cites his duties as the House GOP Conference chair "to shape the Republican comeback," and his belief that Republicans will regain control of the chamber this fall.

"I am not going to leave my post when the fate of the House hangs in the balance," Pence writes. "My place is here, in that fight, with the brave men and women who will be winning that victory for the American people."

Pence would leave a high-profile position in the House, with countless TV appearances and weekly off-camera press briefings, to become a junior member of the Senate. He's the No. 3 man in the GOP Conference with a chance to move up even higher, depending on leadership elections in future Congresses. He'd be giving all of that up to take on not just Evan Bayh, but the Bayh name -- an institution in Indiana. Despite the poll showing him with a slight edge, the race would be anything but a sure thing.

"Mike's decision is good news for our conference and good news for the nation - and very bad news for the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives," House minority leader John Boehner said in a statement. "It sends an unmistakable signal that Republicans are intent on doing everything possible this year to end the Democratic monopoly in Washington, build a lasting majority, and renew the drive for smaller, more accountable government." 

It's good news for the Democratic majority in the Senate, though, on the heels of bad news in Delaware yesterday.

You can read Pence's full letter after the jump.

Continue reading "Pence Won't Challenge Bayh, Says GOP Will Take Back House" »

Sign Of The Times: Hostettler To Challenge Bayh

In perhaps another indication of Republicans' growing confidence about the 2010 landscape, former Indiana Rep. John Hostettler (R) announced today that he will challenge Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.).

In a YouTube video, Hostettler ties Bayh closely to the national Democratic Party, repeatedly mentioning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as he criticized the steps taken to address the economic downturn, and claims Bayh and Reid are now blaming others "for their years of failed leadership."

"What do they have to show for it? Unemployment is the highest that it has been in a quarter century," Hostettler says. "We can't afford to allow Harry Reid and Evan Bayh to have six more years to bankrupt our children's future."

Hostettler, a member of the GOP class of 1994, was a victim of the 2006 Democratic wave, losing to Brad Ellsworth. His entrance makes him the biggest name in the GOP field of candidates, and could give national Republicans reason to look more closely at a race that had not necessarily been thought of as a pickup opportunity.

It may be too soon to predict how the former Congressman will perform in a statewide race against a longtime officeholder in Bayh, especially given the nature of his 2006 defeat. He has an interesting profile as one of only a handful of Republicans who voted against the Iraq resolution in 2002.

The announcement could be bad news for Democrats for another reason, though, coming at a time when Reid needs every vote in his caucus to pass health care legislation. The moderate Bayh has been a target of independent issue campaigns already.

"Evan Bayh has been very popular historically in Indiana, from secretary of state to governor and ultimately to senator," St. Joseph County Republican Party chairman Chris Riley told RCP today. "However, the changing political landscape may create more vulnerability than one might have previously expected, and certainly the way he comes down on health care is going to be a major factor in the 2010 elections."