Huffpost Politics
Sam Stein Headshot

National Republicans Backing Off Evan Bayh

Posted: Updated:

This doesn't seem to be getting the requisite amount of attention.

Earlier this week, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn appeared to rule out making a major electoral investment in challenging Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh, a moderate Democrat in a Republican state.

"We have a sort of priority list," Cornyn said. "He's down on that."

Explaining why the NRSC might not spend big bucks on the Bayh race, Cornyn praised the Hoosier's political temperament in the current climate.

"I welcome what he's been trying to do around here," he said. "What he's doing is constructive."

Neither the NRSC or Bayh's office have returned request for comment. And it's not surprising. For both parties, even a hint of alliance creates a host of tricky political circumstances. The NRSC does not want to be seen as writing off any potential pick-up, especially one in Indiana (though Bayh remains quite popular in the state). The Senator, meanwhile, has already been dogged by skepticism over his calls for moderation in the Obama agenda.

The president's remaining campaign arm, Organizing for America, has sent e-mails to Hoosiers urging them to phone their Republican representatives and Bayh to get a sense of where they "stand on President Obama's budget." Meanwhile, a group of like-minded progressives announced last week that they would undertake a media and grassroots campaign to target conservative Democrats who were either trying to water-down Obama's budget proposals or preemptively eliminate the use of (filibuster-proof) reconciliation to pass major legislation.

When read Cornyn's remarks about Bayh, one of those progressives, Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake was unsurprisingly biting, accusing the Senator of being in the pocket of the banking industry.

"The Republicans twisted themselves in knots yesterday trying to justify voting against stopping the $1 billion in AIG bonuses still to be paid this year, even as 81% of the public supports it," she said. "Why would they oppose Bayh? Making the bank lobbyists happy is hard work these days. They need all the help they can get.

UPDATE: Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the NRSC, sends over a statement cautioning political observers against assuming Bayh is not a target while making the case that there are other, more vulnerable Democrats.

I believe that reporter might have caught Senator Cornyn in the Capitol during votes - I wasn't present though so can't confirm it. I will say though that any speculation (such as what's not in quotes but saying is suggested below) about where the NRSC may or may not spend money next year is far too premature. The NRSC will seek to run competitive candidates in every Senate race next year, particularly in red states like Indiana. It sounds though like Senator Cornyn was simply making the point that at the moment there are several Democrats, notably Dodd, Reid, and Boxer with low poll numbers which suggests they at particularly vulnerable.