Bayh could help fund gubernatorial campaigns

(Portland) Commercial Review

What could make the difference in this year’s Indiana gubernatorial contest?

Two words: Evan Bayh.

The popular, two-term, Democratic governor left his U.S. Senate seat with something like $9 million in his campaign war chest. At the time, there was speculation Bayh was going to make a run for the presidency or at least position himself as a potential vice presidential candidate.

Neither has happened. Instead, Bayh’s star has faded over time. At this point, there’s no big political goal on his horizon.

But the $9 million or so is still there.

In 2011 when he retired from the Senate, Bayh said he intended to help “like-minded Democrats” in their bids for office.

So far, that just qualifies as a nice sentiment.

The former governor hasn’t dedicated resources to the campaign of John Gregg in his bid to unseat Gov. Mike Pence, and he hasn’t chipped in for Barron Hill’s Senate campaign either.

Does this matter? You bet it does.

Gregg has raised something like $3.5 million for his campaign, while Gov. Pence has nearly $7 million in the bank as he heads toward re-election. Given the fact that Gregg ran neck-and-neck against Pence last time around, one has to conclude that an injection of cash would make a significant difference.

Democratic donors sent those checks to Bayh because they believed in his political future. That future has evaporated.

But, we suspect, those donors also shared a distinctly Hoosier, centrist view of where Democratic candidates ought to be going.

And both the Gregg and Hill campaigns seem to fit that bill.

So, Evan, here’s the question: Is that $9 million a personal retirement fund or is it a tool to bring about political change?

Our guess is that the people who wrote those checks could give you a very clear answer.

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