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Bayh bails, pundits flail

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 17, 2010; 9:45 AM

The Democratic senator was fed up with the system and decided to quit.

"Neither political party speaks to people where they live their lives," he said. "Both have moved away from my own concept of service and my own idea of what America can be."

Politics, he declared, was "broken."

There were strong echoes in what Evan Bayh said on Monday, but that was Bill Bradley back in 1996.

The system has been largely dysfunctional for nearly two decades, and everybody knows it.

I have no doubt that there were political calculations in the decision by Bayh, who always winds up on the VP short list and never gets the call, perhaps because he's a nice guy with a charisma deficit. Though he probably would have kept his Indiana seat, the climate for Democrats is getting pretty rough.

But I take Bayh at his word that he was frustrated with the job and didn't want to bang his head against the marble walls for another six years. (Still, he really stuck it to his party by waiting until the eve of the filing deadline to bow out.)

What's really striking is that many liberal commentators are happy to wave Bye Bayh, even though his abrupt withdrawal means that Republicans will most likely capture his Senate seat. He's too much of a squishy moderate for their tastes.

That's why I don't take seriously this chatter about Bayh running for president. He's not a good fit with the party's dominant left wing. I don't get why this WP piece says "the decision marks the close -- at least for now -- of a career that was long expected to end in the White House."

Really? Expected by whom? Journalists? The guy flirted with a White House run a couple of times and decided against it.

And yet, reporters and pundits can't stop themselves. Just as many jumped to the conclusion that Sarah Palin would run for president after bailing out of her job as governor, some were talking up the possibility of Bayh challenging President Obama in 2012. Sorry: The senator slammed the door on that in a round of morning show interviews Tuesday, without using any of the usual weasel words about not wanting to close any doors.

Could he run in 2016, when he'll be 60 years old? Sure, and so could a thousand other people. That's several lifetimes in politics. Bradley wound up running four years after leaving the Senate and got creamed by Al Gore, who accused him of failing to "stand and fight." In the meantime, Bayh needs to find a new second act, or else run for his old job as governor.


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