Just when I think I’ve got the current election scene figured out, someone gives the political snowglobe a hard shake or two. Conventional wisdom walked out the door months ago.
Everyone was adjusting to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s potential run for vice president when Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Baron Hill dropped a bombshell Monday by saying he was dropping out of the race. That paved the way for someone with a better chance of defeating Republican Todd Young, who is a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives, to enter the Senate race.
And who might that candidate be? None other than former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, who helped build the last Democratic dynasty in Indiana.
Bayh announced his retirement from the Senate in 2010, saying he was disgusted with the bitter partisanship and gridlock in the Senate.
Bayh’s entry changes the dynamics of this race.
Young is conservative, but he’s not on the far right. Bayh will give him a run for the money, and Bayh has a lot of it. He left the Senate with a campaign war chest of about $10 million, and he hasn’t been a spendthrift since then. All along, the question of that campaign money has lingered. Would he run again? Would he save it for his young sons’ political ambitions?
Hill wasn’t getting traction in a race that had been closely watched nationally. Bayh’s candidacy means there’s a very real possibility a state that had been seen as deep red could be represented by two Democrats.
And Bayh’s reassertion of his presence on the Indiana political landscape means the Indiana Democratic Party has a chance of rebuilding itself.
Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, is up for re-election in 2018. Republicans are salivating at the prospect of picking up that seat in a mid-term election. That could be an uphill battle. Donnelly, like Bayh, is a centrist, despite Republican opponents’ efforts to paint him as a liberal.
Whether Donnelly keeps his seat in the Senate could depend in part on the outcome of this year’s presidential election.
Pence is reported to be among Trump’s three finalists for vice president. That could make a difference, one way or the other.
Then there’s the possibility that Purdue University President and former Gov. Mitch Daniels could replace Pence on the gubernatorial ticket — another hard shake of the snowglobe.
Indiana has a July 15 drop/add deadline for candidates. And the Republican National Convention starts next Monday. Drum roll, please!
Conventional wisdom — before it stormed out the door — said former Congressman Pence wants to return to the federal government, possibly as president. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy last year tied an anchor to those hopes, if Pence truly had them, for 2016.
But now Trump could give Pence a hand while Pence helps Trump. Pence is locked in a re-election battle that is neck-and-neck. Democrat John Gregg, who ran against Pence last time, has been getting strong support.
Could Pence’s selection as a vice presidential candidate boost Trump’s candidacy? Perhaps. Pence does have the strong social conservative credentials.
And what happens if Trump wins? Often, the opposing party picks up seats in Congress in the mid-term election. That could boost Donnelly’s re-election chances.
With Bayh and Donnelly both in the Senate in 2016, they could help rebuild the Democratic Party — maybe even in time for the next redistricting.
If there’s anything this election has taught me, it’s that anything is possible.