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Obama VEEPwatch: Who Is Evan Bayh?

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Whether you knew it or not, ObamaBayh.com is up and running in a subtle campaign to keep the public informed about how awesome this dream team is. Once a fiercely loyal Clintonite, the Indiana Senator has instantly thrown his support behind Barack Obama and most recently accompanied the presidential hopeful and Sam Nunn to the Middle East. Could it be a trial run for VP?

Congressional Credentials:

Indiana Senator (1999 – Present)
– Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
– Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
– Subcommittee on Financial Institutions
– Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance and Investment
– Subcommittee on Security and International Trade and Finance (Chairman)
– Committee on Armed Services
– Subcommittee on Airland
– Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
– Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support
– Select Committee on Intelligence
– Special Committee on Aging

Governor of Indiana (1989 – 1997)
Secretary of State Indiana (1987 – 1989)

Background :
Evan Bayh was born in Shirkieville, Indiana. His father, Birch, was a state senator from 1963 – 1981 who also ran for president in 1976 (losing in the primaries to Jimmy Carter). Evan graduated with honors from a prestigious highschool — St. Albans School in Washington DC, obtained his business economics BA from Indiana University and went on to get his JD from the University of Virginia.

His Agenda:

Education:
Descending from a line of teachers, Bayh’s always had a soft spot for education. He cut interest rates, proposed student loan relief for active duty soldiers, passed legislation to help middle and lower income families send their kids to college, proposed tax relief for “teachers who go the extra mile” and announced $400,000 in grants to help schools prepare for emergencies.

Pro-business:
Bayh’s also really into helping out small businesses. He offered a 50% tax credit for businesses who offer health insurance for their workers in 2005. He’s credited with securing over $500 million for local research/technology projects — all military products. He also invested $158,000 in Northeast Indiana and pledged to protect the job security of local workers, calling for a reversal of the tax breaks given to companies that move overseas. Instead he offered tax credits for those who stay local and offer their employees health insurance benefits.

Energy:
He urged the President to fund electric vehicle technology to end oil dependence, invested in fuel-efficient public transportation, joined bipartisan bills to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, promoted new energy technologies and secured $2.8 million in federal funding to help Hoosiers deal with high energy costs.

Health:
Bayh co-sponsored bills to provide Cancer screening to women, triple Cancer research funds and eliminate penalties for late medical sign-up. He called on the FDA to improve regulation of products from China, spent $50,000 on combating obesity and secured over $9.1 million in federal grants to improve Indiana healthcare.

American Security: (See next section for details.)

Foreign Policy Cred: 
As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Armed Services Committee, Bayh is well-versed and well-respected on foreign matters, which is why Obama chose him to come along on the highly publicized Middle East tour. He’s been working on several high-profile projects with Dick Lugar, like the non-proliferation treaty, two bills to build a new electronic warfare and national guard facilities and a defense bill (S. 1138, The Nuclear Safeguards and Supply Act of 2007). Getting “tough on trade” with countries like China and reforming World Bank is also of utmost importance in the senator’s work.

Domestic Policy Cred:
As Governor, Bayh was noted by the Wall Street Journal as a “fiscally conservative Democrat.” Republicans called his administration “cautious but responsible.” His eight years in office was marked by lower taxes, over 350,000 new jobs, “welfare-to-work” programs, lean government and increased school funding. He cares very much about health care, jobs, education and energy independence.

Star Achievements:
Bayh was credited with “the largest single tax cut and budget surplus” in state history.

He also saw to it that low-income public school children received free lunches and were able to attend university for free, as long as the high school students pledged to keep off drugs (21st Century Scholars Act of 1992).

His approval rating ended with 80%.

Possible Snafus: 
Bayh = Bait!
In 2002, Evan authorized the invasion of Iraq. Not only that, but he was honorary co-chairman of the Committee to Liberate Iraq – working alongside Neocon Bill Kristol, former CIA director James Woolsey, Joe Lieberman and John McCain! (Yowch.) Sure, he’s entitled to change his mind, especially given the fact that many hawkish senators have admitted the war wasn’t what they had anticipated; however, the Republicans might have a hay-day with Bayh regardless.

Too centrist?
I came across an article penned by Dylan Matthews at The American Prospect, home of super Liberals. Matthews wrote, “If Obama wants to alienate progressives while reinforcing the media narratives that he’s ‘flip-flopping’ and ‘moving toward the center’, then Bayh is a good pick. If he wants to win and work toward liberal policy goals while in office, I suggest he look elsewhere.” For the most part, I think the criticism is unfair.
 
His voting record looks a little like this:
60% Pro-civil liberty votes (ACLU)
100% Pro-affirmative action (NAACP)
90% Pro-senior (ARA)
91% Pro-education (NEA)
100% Pro-energy independence (CAF)
Pro-environment (LCV)
Pro-public health (APHA)
Mixed record on Criminal justice (NCJA)
Mixed record on Rehabilitation (CURE)
Mixed record on Trade (CATO)
31% anti-family (Christian Coalition)

He has some wild card votes – like reauthorizing the Patriot Act (but voting against the wiretap provision). He voted for a flag-burning amendment, supported McCain’s proposal to get Russia out of the G8, voted “Yes” to keep funds going to sanctuary cities and the NTU rated him a “Big Spender” on tax votes. But look, Liberals, he voted against Alito and Roberts for Supreme Court.  In fact, he voted with Democratic Party lines 86% of the time. Moreover, his vote record is classified by VoteSmart as a “Populist-leaning Liberal”… is that so different than Obama?

Boring?
The Democratic Underground called Bayh a “boring centrist white guy” and you can even find a youtube video labeled “Boring Bayh” if you’re looking. The prattle gets even worse over at “Bob Cesca’s Goddamn Awesome Blog,” where he’s called everything from a “tepid DLC hack” to a “Kenbot.” Even TIME Magazine cited Evan as having “Gore-like blandness.” However, Midwestern housewives over at NBC called Evan Bayh “campaign eye-candy” — as good as John Edwards. If you caught him on Fox News Sunday against Joe Lieberman, Bayh was far from boring and came off prepared on every talking point.

Corporate Ties?
Some Liberals find it interesting that Bayh would vote for “stricter laws pertaining to campaign finance” – and yet, would also accept $14,000 from one of the nation’s biggest polluters AK Steel, despite all his other “pro-environment” votes. His wife Susan sits as director on ten corporate boards, including: Wellpoint Inc (largest US health insurer), Dendreon Corp (biotechnology), Dyax Corp. (biopharmaceutical), Nastech Pharmaceutical (biopharmaceutical), Novavax Inc. (biotech), Curis Inc. (biomedical), Esperion Therapeutics Inc. (biomedical) and Emmis Communications Corp (telecomm). One can only hope she would resign from her post (like Senator George Allen’s wife who was on the corporate board of a major utility company but didn’t want to hold her husband back when he was appointed to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.) According to economic insiders, Susan Bayh is “spreading herself too thin” anyway, causing some of her companies – notably Emmis – to fall by the wayside.


VicePresidents.com Assessment…

Some say Evan Bayh was simply born to lead.
He was the son of a politician who almost effortlessly ascended the ranks from sec of state to governor to senator. Over the past two years, he’s been setting up networks in Iowa, New Hampshire and other key states to prepare himself for a presidential run. However, with so many “star” contenders in 2008, he abandoned his bid just 13 days after his exploratory committee set out. Yet, deep down, Bayh wanted to be in the White House so badly. He was a very quick supporter of Hillary Clinton and for a while, everyone was sure he’d be her #1 VP pick. Her husband had called upon Bayh to give the keynote address at the 1996 Democratic National Convention because he represented the “moderate image” Clinton himself wished to imbue. “I hope and expect one day I’ll be voting for Evan Bayh for President of the United States,” Bill Clinton had remarked. When Hill left the race, Bayh followed Clinton’s lead and immediately gave his unfettered support to Obama. Over the past few months, Bayh has campaigned, debated on TV and traveled with Obama. Geographically speaking, Indiana has always caught the eye of presidential campaign staff, since it’s full of blue collars but prone to swinging red. Bayh was considered a possible running mate for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, so is now his time to shine?

Barack & Evan have been buddies since 2004.
In a July 18th interview with the National Journal, Bayh was quoted as saying that he and Obama “know each other, we’re friends, we’re about the same age, we both have young kids, we both like sports, we made that trip to Iraq [in 2006]. You know, you get to know somebody when you’re traveling in the belly of a C-130 or lifting off in a Blackhawk for somewhere like Fallujah or Kirkuk.” He added, “Like I said, we’re the same generation, so we have a comfort level, but I don’t want to overstate any of that. I like him, I hope he likes me, and after that dinner I could tell one thing. My wife is a talented person in her own right, and I could tell with Michelle that Barack and I — one other thing that we have in common is we both married up.”

Obama has been speaking highly of Evan Bayh lately too.
At Purdue University, Obama referred to Bayh as “one of the finest senators” – and, “prior to that, one of the finest governors we’ve had in the country.” Later he told Indiana’s News 8, “I have said that I will not talk about my vice presidential process until I’m introducing the person who, I believe, will be the next vice president. But I can say that Evan Bayh is one of the most gifted public servants we have. He’s done an extraordinary job as senator…and he’s somebody who, I think, would be a great asset to any Democratic administration.” Obama pointed out that Bayh’s “doing some good work with Dick Lugar with respect to a proposal to stop the flow of nuclear weapons while safely meeting the demand for nuclear power,” which aligns perfectly with some of Obama’s foreign policy initiatives.

Bayh brings common sense.
While some people call Evan “Republican Lite,” others say he’s just a sensible politician. “Leading this country has to be about something other than ideological division,” Bayh told the Washington Post. “It’s got to be about how we move this country forward in practical terms, not looking at issues as left or right or even center but instead do they make sense, will they matter in peoples’ lives?” Back in February, he had said, “We’ve got to be somewhere between ‘cut and run’…and mindlessly staying the course. You’ve got to have a sensible middle ground.” Lately the media has been accusing Obama of waffling on some of his more Liberal views in favor of a moderate, bipartisan vision like Bayh proposes. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing in a world where Bush and Cheney pushed forward their agenda, despite all logical reasoning that indicated disaster.

Bayh’s loaded.
Bayh is also a strong fundraiser who’d be ready to spar against a heavy hitter like Mitt Romney. His senate committee raised $3 million in 2005, finishing off the year with a $9.5 million surplus. He also brought in $1.5 million with his All America PAC. Even though he’s a fundraising fool, he still manages to give off that Midwestern “Blue Collar” image.

Bayh brings balance.
I guess the million-dollar question is: Are there enough super left-leaning Liberals ready to vote that would sway the election? Or should Obama focus on reaching across the aisle a little bit, snagging a couple Reagan Republicans, moderates and centrists? I think the Veep selection is typically chosen to “balance the ticket,” not marginalize voters outside a particular niche, so adding Bayh to the ticket wouldn’t be a bad idea. If Evan is hoping to run for president himself one day, the #2 spot would be the next logical move. Even though it didn’t work out for Al Gore, five vice presidents were later elected president: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, Richard Nixon and George HW Bush. (Additionally, four more Veeps succeeded to the presidency: Teddy Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman and Johnson.)

Bayh = a Youthful Ticket Brand.
Talking “Ticket Brand,” Bayh boosts Obama’s foreign policy creds a bit and adds to the “youthful vigor” of the Obama campaign. He’s well-liked, he loves his two children and he’s had the executive experience that Obama lacks. In addition to foreign policy, he echoes Obama on the environment, trade negotiations, health policies and energy independence. He’d be loyal to Obama and he’d help bolster Obama’s “unity” message, bringing some jaded Neocons and old friend Republicans to the negotiating table, if need be. He may not be as exciting as an Edwards or a Biden, but what distinguishes Bayh from the pack is that… well, he actually WANTS the job!