Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Another political bombshell shook Democrats Monday when Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh chose not to seek reelection in the face of a rising Republican wave that threatens his party's control of the Senate.

Bayh is the fifth Democratic senator who is not running in this year's midterm elections, handing the GOP one more vulnerable open seat that the Cook Political Report immediately moved to its "leaning Republican" column.

"No matter how the two fields shake out, holding the Indiana seat just got much harder for Democrats," The Washington Post declared. Election forecaster Stuart Rothenberg said, "Bayh's decision gives Republicans another excellent takeover opportunity."

Bayh gave several self-serving excuses for abandoning his bid for a third term, including what he saw as rampant partisanship that has turned the Senate chamber into a burial ground for the Democrats' agenda. He could accomplish more in the private sector, he said, though insisted he was confident of winning reelection if he ran.

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In fact, Bayh, who has never faced serious competition before, was in for a very tough race against the Republicans this time. A Rasmussen poll had him in a virtual dead heat last month against conservative Rep. John Hostettler, who announced his candidacy. In a theoretical matchup, he trailed Rep. Mike Pence, the House Republican Conference chairman, who has since decided to seek reelection.

Former Sen. Dan Coats was also preparing to join the race, and private, internal Republican polls showed he could have defeated Bayh.

But besides the stiff opposition that was building against him, Bayh also faced an increasingly hostile conservative electorate that disapproved of his support for a deeply unpopular Obamacare plan, a waste-ridden $800 billion jobless "stimulus" package, and putting wartime terrorists on trial in our civilian courts with all of the rights accorded U.S. citizens.

Despite a rich $13 million war chest, the former two-term governor who once nurtured presidential ambitions sees the situation for what it is. The national political environment has turned sharply against the Democrats in a protest-driven election where Republicans are poised to make major gains in Congress.

Bayh faced the uncomfortable prospect of running in a state suffering from a near 10 percent unemployment rate in a weak national economy that showed no significant signs of new job growth this year, according to the Obama administration's tepid employment forecasts last week.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.