Campaigning the Bayh Way

By Chris Cillizza and Zachary A. Goldfarb
Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) is doubling his chit-building chances in the 2008 presidential race by holding a joint fundraiser with New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch and Iowa gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver next month.

Bayh, who has made little secret of his ambition to run for president in 2008, will host a luncheon fundraiser for fellow Democrats Lynch and Culver in New York on Sept. 18. Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will deliver a foreign policy briefing at the event. Guests are asked to give $1,000 to the reelection campaigns of Lynch and Culver.

Lynch, who was elected in 2004, is a strong bet for reelection. Culver is running against Rep. Jim Nussle (R) for the job being vacated by term-limited Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) -- another lawmaker with an eye on the 2008 race. The Iowa race is perhaps the GOP's best chance of picking up a Democratic seat, and both national parties have made substantial donations to the contest.

Bayh's fundraising gambit is the latest evidence of his innovative approach to courting the activists essential to the 2008 nominating process.

Earlier this year, the Indiana senator formed "Camp Bayh" -- a training program for young people looking to join a campaign or older folks looking for a career change.

The camps trained 50 activists who have since been dispatched to help on local, state and federal campaigns. The distribution of these staffers -- 25 to Iowa, 15 to New Hampshire, six to Indiana, three to Nevada and one to South Carolina -- give Bayh eyes and ears in the four early presidential primary and caucus proving grounds, as well as in his home state.

From a mechanics perspective, no candidate on the Democratic side has done a better job than Bayh. But as past campaigns have shown (Remember former Texas senator Phil Gramm's collapse in the early stages of the 1996 GOP nomination fight?), process without personality is meaningless.

Bayh is a blank canvas for most voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, and neutral observers wonder whether his personality -- more Bob Newhart than Bob Barker -- can sway undecided voters to his cause amid a crowded field of Democrats all vying to be the alternative to presumed front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).

Record-Breaking Campaign

Notice an usually large number of political ads on television lately? That is because campaigns are spending much more on political advertising than in other recent cycles.

Campaigns, political committees and advocacy groups had spent $311 million on House, Senate and gubernatorial races by mid-August, according to tracking service TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group. That is almost a 50 percent increase since this point in 2002.

The company expects $400 million more to be spent on House and Senate races before Election Day.

"It's a large increase. The drivers are the competitive landscape for House and Senate races and the number of key governors' races that are up this year," said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer for the tracking company.

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