Speculation over Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana as a possible running mate for Barack Obama is expected to intensify today as the two Democrats stump together in the Hoosier state.
Bayh will introduce Obama at a town hall meeting at Concord High School in Elkhart during the presidential candidate’s extensive, 21-hour visit to Indiana. The meeting comes two days after Obama opened his 18th campaign office in the state, where Republican John McCain has no offices.
“I think Evan Bayh makes the most sense as a running mate for Obama,” Robert Schmuhl, professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, told The Examiner. “He would help to bring the Democratic base out nationally and he would also help to bring the independents in Indiana to the polls. He was enormously popular as governor and that has continued through his Senate career.”
Republican strategist Kevin Madden acknowledged that Bayh would probably “appeal to some blue-collar Democrat voters that Obama struggled with during the final primaries.”
“But Bayh is more of a paper candidate,” Madden added. “While his resume and his bio all seem to fit a neat package that should help Obama, he has never earned a fighting reputation as someone who will attack and attack hard, which is exactly what Obama will need. And there is scant evidence that he could even help deliver Indiana or any other state in the Midwest.”
Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh cautioned that Bayh “may not be liberal enough for some Obama supporters and his vote to go to war in Iraq may not help him either.” Still, she touted his lengthy public service record.
“Bayh, in many ways, is the complete package,” Marsh said. “A former governor and current senator. A Democrat in a red state who has won time after time. An elected official who has dealt with the economy and has expertise in foreign policy. And a former Clinton supporter who is well liked by Obama supporters.”
Schmuhl recalled that Bayh gave a lackluster keynote speech at the 1996 Democratic National Convention.
“Let’s just say that it was not remembered as the most dynamic presentation in the history of the Democratic Party,” he allowed. “But if you have a dominant orator at the top of the ticket, you don’t want a stemwinder in the second spot. With so much charisma at the top, some blandness in the second spot might help to balance the ticket.”