Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The problems with Coats

One of the interesting things about the worsening Senate picture for Democrats is that there's not a single race where an incumbent is likely to lose due to the Republicans having a strong candidate. If the election was today I'm pretty sure Blanche Lincoln, Harry Reid, Michael Bennet, and Arlen Specter would go down but that has everything to do with themselves/national climate and very little to do with John Boozman, Sue Lowden, Jane Norton, Pat Toomey, or any of the other GOP candidates running in those races. None of the Republican candidates are exactly all stars.

Which brings me to the news of Dan Coats' candidacy in Indiana. I think all things being equal Evan Bayh's fate would be determined by what voters think about Evan Bayh, Barack Obama, and national Democrats. Because of that I think if Republicans made Indiana a priority race they would do about equally well with any competent, well funded candidate regardless of their early name recognition- ala Kay Hagan or Jeff Merkley two years ago.

The thing about running Dan Coats is that he brings baggage to the race. The carpetbagger argument that can be made against him for being registered to vote in Virginia for the last decade is a real one- just ask Elizabeth Dole. Bayh can make some real contrasts for the voters by noting how many days he's spent in Indiana over the last few years compared to Coats. And of course it will be hard for Coats to run against the Washington political establishment when he's very much a part of it.

For those reasons I actually think Coats is a worse candidate than some more unknown Republican would be- because Bayh can plausibly shift the focus from being all about him to making it about his opponent as well. That's not to say Bayh will definitely win, but if he was going to face a tough challenge no matter what there are some things about Coats that make him a more desirable opponent than someone who could run as an outsider.


Anonymous said...

Uh, it's hard to stick a carpetbagger label on a former SENATOR and congressman of Indiana for almost 20 years. Indiana voters, already pre-disposed against Democrats, will not say "well, he's not from here."

Armchair Editorialist said...

Smart point about Coats, but the GOP's chances in Delaware definitely related to the candidate. Castle was the only Republican who could possibly win, and the race is only competitive because he's in it.

baldheadeddork said...

Hey Tom - I'm a native Hoosier (don't get to brag about that a lot) and I have a very different take on Coats.

The Virginia residency isn't going to be a problem. Indiana Republicans are much more forgiving of their own than they would be for any Democrat, and the ambassadorship will give Coats more than enough cover for his time out of the state. He's been a lobbyist for BofA, but Bayh can't touch that because of Susan's multi-million dollar haul over the years as a professional board member.

Coats isn't a teabagger, but I don't think that's going to help Bayh. Indiana is a solid Republican state but it's not Georgia or South Carolina. Dan Burton or Mike Pence can win easily in rural congressional districts, but the Lugar/Daniels voters who are more moderate are the people who decide statewide elections.

That's why Coats entry into the race is really bad news for Evan Bayh. Those independents and moderate Republicans have been Bayh voters since he ran for governor, and they would have been his to lose again this year against someone like Mike Pence. But against a well-funded Republican with a pedigree who can do a pretty good impression of Dick Lugar and keep the social conservatives happy - Bayh is going to be in a huge amount of trouble.

And that's without taking into account p*ssing on the Obama supporters who won the state last year.

zbigreddogz said...

That's insane. Had he just been a Hoosier who left for Washington to work at a law firm, that would be one thing. EVEN THAT likely wouldn't matter. Chuck Hagel had been courted to run for Governor of Virginia, but he had no problem going back to Nebraska and running against the sitting Governor for a Senate seat, and he won easily.

In the case of Coats, he represented Indiana for nearly two decades, and won his last election by 16pts. The carpetbagger argument just won't fly.

Oh, and even if they want to try, Bayh was raised in Maryland, not Indiana. And he's lived in Washington for 11 years.

Christian Liberty said...

It's not just AR, NV, CO, PA that could go GOP with less-than-blockbuster opposition candidates.

With some decent candidates on the ballot... CA, OR, WA, WI, IN, and 2 seats in NY could all go GOP.

Unknown said...

What a shock the teabaggers are defending the carpetbagger!

Anonymous said...

Kay Hagan got lucky that she was able to get that "carpetbagger" label to stick to Elizabeth Dole. Mrs. Dole ran horrible ads late in the campaign, too, and Hagan got lucky that it was a democrat year. I doubt this will work in Indiana. Besides, Coats isn't the nominee yet.

Anonymous said...

Coats already has represented Indiana with a true conservative voting record and defeated Baron Hill

Bayh grew up in Maryland his kids don't even attend Indiana schools so if they want to play that game lets rumble

Unknown said...

As a Hoosier, I have to disagree. Yes, its true that a fresh face would have the benefits of the Republican environment without any potential baggage that Coats has, the current batch of candidates in the Senate race leave a lot to be desired.

Hostettler, given his prior electoral history, is more reminiscent of Martha Coakley than Scott Brown. Yes, 2006 was a Democratic year, but if he couldn't even come close against Ellsworth in a district that was 51-47 McCain, how is he supposed to beat Bayh in a state that was 50-49 Obama.

The Republican environment is a major threat to Evan Bayh and Democrats across the country, but we have to field a credible alternative. Dan Coats is far from an ideal candidate for me, but to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go to the voting booth with the candidates you have, not the candidates you wish you had.

Rasmus said...

Hey Christian Liberty,
in case of a wave election I agree that the GOP could get Murray in Washington, Feingold in Wisconsin, Gillibrand in New York and Bayh in Indiana. Maybe even Boxer, though I'd give them less than a 10% chance. Things are almost as bad for Dems now as they can possibly get, and Boxer is leading by high single digits.

I don't see them having a shot against Wyden or Schumer though.
Wyden would usually win reelection with 65%, maybe he'll be down to 55-60%. Schumer would win with 75%, maybe the GOPer can keep him to 60%.

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