On Tuesday, both CBS Early Show co-host Maggie Rodriguez and ABC Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos lamented the announced retirement of Democratic Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and proclaimed that his reelection would have been a virtual certainty. Rodriguez described it as "a lock," while Stephanopoulos asserted that it was "almost assured."
In reality, A January 25 Rasmussen poll showed Bayh losing to Republican Congressman Mike Pence, 44% to 47%. While Pence has since decided against running, the poll also showed former Republican Congressman John Stutzman, who has formerly announced his candidacy, getting close at 41% to Bayh's 44%. Numbers like that certainly do not suggest Bayh's reelection was anywhere close to being "a lock."
Both Rodriguez and Stephanopoulos made those comments in interviews with Bayh on their respective shows. Only a brief sound bite of the Senator was featured on NBC's Today on Tuesday.
On Good Morning America, Stephanopoulos almost pleaded with Bayh not to retire, claiming that if "centrists" like him leave, "doesn't that make the problem [of partisanship] worse? Why not stay and fix it?" While Rodriguez did not label Bayh as centrist, she did fret over his decision to retire: "What do you say to critics who say you did leave the Democrats high and dry at a time when they can't afford to be losing anymore seats?"
Later in the Early Show interview, Rodriguez wondered if Bayh was setting up a 2012 White House run: "There is talk, because you said that you are an executive at heart, that you may switch parties and run against President Obama in the next election. Is that a possibility?" While she used the phrase "switch parties" it seemed clear that she was asking if Bayh would start a third party, rather than become a Republican.
Stephanopoulos also asked Bayh about his political ambitions, but not in such a direct way: "You know, some people look at the decision by you and wonder if you're trying to set up a future run for the White House yourself. I mean, we have the graphic from Huffington Post out there saying, is Senator Bayh eyeing a White House run? What's the truth behind that?"
Here is part of the Early Show interview:
RODRIGUEZ: Your announcement came as quite a shock to a lot of people, including your Majority Leader Harry Reid, who didn't find out about it until it was public. And a lot of people are wondering, Senator, why did you blind side your leadership? Are you angry at your party?
BAYH: No, Maggie, I'm not angry at my party, I wish Washington would work better. And I had discussed with Senator Reid as long as a year ago my growing feeling that Congress was not working as well as it should. That there is much to much partisanship and too much ideology, not enough practical progress. And so, you know, with several of my colleagues, including the leadership, I shared that opinion. And you know in the hurly burly of making these announcements sometimes phone calls get delayed and that kind of thing. But what we need to do is to come together as a people and solve the problems facing our country, and unfortunately, Washington is just not doing enough of that these days.
RODRIGUEZ: Analysts say that you may have essentially handed your seat to the Republicans come November, because you a lock to win reelection, and now the Democrats have to scramble to find someone to run in your place before Friday, which is the deadline. What do you say to critics who say you did leave the Democrats high and dry at a time when they can't afford to be losing anymore seats?
BAYH: Well, those critics, Maggie, must know my – must not know my state very well. Hoosiers are very independent, there are five Republicans running, they're going to have a vigorous primary. I don't know who they're nominee is going to be. And I am highly confident that we will have a candidate for the United States Senate who will be very competitive and have an excellent chance of winning this seat in November.
RODRIGUEZ: You mentioned the word independent. There is talk, because you said that you are an executive at heart, that you may switch parties and run against President Obama in the next election. Is that a possibility?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Bayh's Future; Will He Consider Run Against Obama?]
BAYH: That is absolutely – no possibility whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I talked to the President yesterday and said I was looking forward to working with him over these next 11 months to try and make the progress I know that he so desperately wants. And let me say this Maggie, I think the President – you know, you can disagree with his policies if you want to, but he is making a sincere effort to try and bring the two sides together to try and find some common ground, to try and forge that practical progress that Americans are so yearning for. And I want to help him over the next 11 months to make that kind of progress.
Part of the Good Morning America interview:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, so clear that you are frustrated by the system right now. You say that basically it's broken. But if centrists like you leave, doesn't that make the problem worse? Why not stay and fix it?
BAYH: Well, I thought that Judd Gregg said it well, George. I simply reached the conclusion that I could get more done to help my state and the American people, by doing something in the private sector. Helping to create jobs. Helping to educate children or young people at a college or university. Helping to lead a philanthropy [sic]. Real accomplishments in a real way. Perhaps on a smaller stage, but something meaningful.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a pretty stunning statement, Senator. You are a senior senator. You would be heading into your third term, victory almost assured. But, you think you can do more in the private sector?
BAYH: George, I really do. Until we can change this town, until we reform Congress, as I've indicated to you and others, there's too much brain-dead partisanship, tactical maneuvering for short term political advantage rather than focusing on the greater good. And also just strident ideology. The extremes of both parties have to be willing to accept compromises from time to time to make some progress because some progress for the American people is better than nothing. And all-too often recently, we've been getting nothing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the big question is how is that going to happen? We were talking on the phone yesterday, you say it's going to take a shock to the system administered by the public. What would that shock be?
BAYH: That shock would be the American people looking at Congress and saying, look. "There's a lot of good people there. But the folks who are so obviously focused on politics and partisanship, vote them out." The people who are just rigidly ideological, unwilling to accept practical solutions somewhere in the middle, vote them out. And change the rules so that the sensible people who remain can actually get the job done. The President, I know, is desperately trying to accomplish this. Congress needs to listen. And the American people need to help with this process.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that the President's trying to accomplish that. And I know you're on ally of the President. But you also said this shock could come in the next presidential election. Telling me you thought there was a space out there for what you called a saner Ross Perot. Explain what you mean by that?
BAYH: Well, look, first off I do support President Obama. And I am confident that he will be reelected. And I think he's making a sincere effort to try and bring the two parties together. But if frustrations continue to grow, and the American people say a pox on both your houses, then there's some prospect for a third party type movement. I don't believe that will happen, George. I think that ultimately we can make progress in the two-party system. And, look I think the President is making a sincere effort. And I want to help him with that. And I applaud him for that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, some people look at the decision by you and wonder if you're trying to set up a future run for the White House yourself. I mean, we have the graphic from Huffington Post out there saying, is Senator Bayh eyeing a White House run? What's the truth behind that?
BAYH: No truth whatsoever, George. I spoke with the President yesterday. He couldn't have been nicer. I indicated I wanted to help him over the next 11 months. And would do whatever I could to help him with his reelection.