Bayh’s Replacement

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Indiana Rep. Brad Ellsworth is stepping into the breach left by Evan Bayh’s surprise retirement and is expected to announce a Senate bid later today.

Widely viewed as a recruiting win for the DSCC, Ellsworth’s entrance into the race allows Democrats still reeling from the Indiana Senator’s high-profile withdrawal to breathe a little easier.

A decorated sheriff before winning his House seat representing the 8th district in 2006, Ellsworth won more than 60 percent of the vote in his two congressional campaigns to date. He is anti-abortion, a self-described “fiscal conservative” and a member of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, all likely advantages in purple Indiana. But he lacks overwhelming name recognition statewide and Republican frontrunner Dan Coats will likely try to make hay of his vote for the House’s health reform legislation last year.

Coats, as previously mentioned, is not without his own vulnerabilities. The former Senator faced a deluge of opposition research when word of candidacy first broke, and he only recently moved back to Indiana.

It is not yet clear whether Ellsworth will face Democratic competition for a spot on the ballot. The decision ultimately lies in the hands of state party officials because Bayh announced his retirement a day before the filing deadline and no one managed to rustle up enough signatures in time. Either way, his presence in the race is at least a small comfort to Democrats sweating November.