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Bye Bayh, Blue Dog

Mark Mardell | 20:32 UK time, Monday, 15 February 2010

A leading Democratic senator from the centre-right of the party has decided not to stand in November's mid-term elections. It will probably mean his party will lose a seat he could have held. But is Evan Bayh really giving up politics altogether?

Evan Bayh.jpg

His wife and two boys stood alongside him as he said he loved serving citizens but that "I do not love Congress". Things would be better if Washington DC was more like Indiana, he said. He was disappointed at the lack of bipartisanship. He wanted co-operation, rather than conflict between the parties.

He said there was too much ideology, not enough practical problem-solving. Senator Bayh said he stood for "progress, not politics". It's a pithy soundbite for someone who feels he can serve more by running a charity or an educational institute.

This sort of attack on Washington, on party-political bickering, this call to work "across the aisle" is just what many Americans want to hear. Call me an old cynic but it sounds like positioning, rather than abandoning politics.

Senator Bayh said he was "confident" of holding his seat, but his decision has made it much less likely the Democrats will hold it in November.

Evan Bayh is the fourth sitting Democrat to give up the fight. Of course none of them say the ship is sinking, let alone admit to being rats. Bryan Dorgan from North Dakota said at the time: "Frankly, I believe if I were to run for another term I would be re-elected." Frankly, it's impossible to know if he's right but his decision has made it more likely that that seat too will go Republican.

President Obama's old berth in Illinois could also be lost after his replacement decided not to run again after accusations that he tried to buy the seat (he was cleared but was admonished by the Senate ethics committee.) Chris Dodd's resignation on the other hand probably helps his party hold the seat.

It may not be a more bipartisan Senate after the November elections but it is likely to be a more Republican one.


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