Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who announced he would retire from his U.S. Senate seat at the end of his term, is already looking into his 2012 election crystal ball and what he sees is the potential for a third-party candidate to win the presidency.
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Bayh took pains to emphasize his support for President Obama's re-election, but said disarray within both political parties has created an opening for a third-party contender. Bayh called it "a Ross Perot Moment" -- a sentiment that has been echoed recently by New York Times columnist David Brooks.
"You remember back then, the deficit was unsustainably high," Bayh said, referring to the economic conditions of the early-1990's. "The economy was struggling. People had a sense that Washington was just broken, and they looked for someone from completely outside the system. So, you know, let me be clear. I support the president. I think he is making a major effort, and I'm going to do what I can to help him succeed. But just my political take on it, I think--I think David is--he's on to something."
Though Bayh has not said what he plans to do after her retires from the Senate in 2010, the news of his retirement set off instant speculation about whether a presidential run was in his future. Some political observers interpreted Bayh's comment during his retirement announcement that he was "an executive at heart" as a sign he might be interested in the country's top executive job.
Here is the full excerpt from Rose's interview with Bayh:
ROSE: My friend David Brooks, who was on the program recently and over the
weekend, said at long last, he believes that third party may be a viable
alternative if the president runs for re-election and someone from the right
of the Republican Party is the nominee, that there is today, in today's
atmosphere, because of a feeling that issues are not being addressed well, an
opportunity for a third party candidate with very--with appropriate
credentials to run and win the presidency.
Sen. BAYH: Well, there's a high level of frustration with the two-party
system out there. And the public voted--concluded the Republicans weren't
doing a very good job of solving our challenges. They're giving our party,
the Democrats, a chance. I think the president very much wants to be a change
agent. He's making a sincere effort. Not enough members of Congress are
listening, either because of partisan or ideological reasons. So I believe
the president will be a strong favorite for re-election, certainly as the
economy improves. But I do think there's something to what David Brooks said.
This is, in some ways, another--for lack of a better phrase, "a Ross Perot
moment." You remember back then, the deficit was unsustainably high. The
economy was struggling. People had a sense that Washington was just broken,
and they looked for someone from completely outside the system. So, you know,
let me be clear. I support the president. I think he is making a major
effort, and I'm going to do what I can to help him succeed. But just my
political take on it, I think--I think David is--he's on to something.
Particularly, Charlie, if the--if the economy does not improve and if we were
to, as we were discussing on your show the last time, if these deficits and
increasing debt are just allowed to run, and you get a reaction in the global
credit markets that causes a collapse of the dollar or a dramatic run up-in
interest rates, you know, that could be the kind of thing that, in spite of
everyone's efforts, would really galvanize public opinion against everyone in
Washington, regardless of party.
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