Chris Cillizza is reporting that the Indiana Senator will announce his retirement at a news conference today. That almost certainly hands his seat over to the Republicans, and makes the prospect of the Democrats losing the Senate this fall seem more than a theoretical possibility.
Republicans have been saying that Indiana was the sleeper Senate race of this cycle, and that their candidate, former Senator Dan Coats, had a good shot of winning, despite Bayh’s longstanding popularity in Indiana. Still, as Cillizza notes, polling has shown Bayh 20 points ahead, and he had $13 million in the bank.
Those close to him say that Bayh has been increasingly restive in the Senate. He had also grown more disillusioned about his prospects there. He had been on the running-mate short lists of three successive Democratic presidential nominees, endured the vetting process, and then seen the nod go to someone else. Says one adviser of Bayh’s move: “He wavered a little because Coats and the Republican attacks got his juices flowing, but this is the right decision.”
So what next? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him somewhere in the Obama cabinet at some point. And he has also talked about going home to Indiana to run again for his old job as Governor, which he once told me was far more fun and interesting than being in a legislative body. It also might be a better springboard for the national ambitions of a politician who, at 54, has plenty of time to consider his political future.
UPDATE: The filing deadline is Friday, which means the Democrats have very little time to find another candidate.