The veepstakes buzz today appears to be that Barack Obama is seriously considering selecting Evan Bayh as his running mate. And while there have been a number of other boomlets for VP candidates in recent weeks, the timing of this one -- coupled with the fact that Bayh, unlike a number of other names in the news, hasn't been assigned a speaking spot at the upcoming Convention -- indicates that the buzz might have the ring of truth.
Regardless of Bayh's merits as a running mate and potential vice-president, his selection would carry with it one immutable and giant negative: the inauguration of Vice-President Bayh would very likely create a new Republican senator. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is a Bush loyalist who has a substantial, 10-15 point lead over Democrat Jill Long Thompson in his bid for reelection. As much as we'd like to hope for the best, it's improbable that Long Thompson is going to defeat Daniels.
Now, Indiana Democrats will point out that Long Thompson has done well in fundraising, and that the presence of Bayh on the ticket would undoubtedly help her. But the fact remains that Daniels is more likely than not going to win the race. And that means that he would have the ability to appoint Bayh's successor in the Senate. Perhaps he'd choose Steve Buyer, a wingnut who advocated for the use of nuclear weapons in Afghanistan. Perhaps he'd name himself.
In any case, Daniels would not pick a Democrat to replace Bayh. He would pick a partisan Republican. And that means that President Obama would lose a precious Senate seat at a time when he will need every vote that he can get to defeat near-certain filibusters. Obama wants to push serious energy reform -- but he won't be able to get it unless he can muster 60 votes in the Senate. He wants to enact the Employee Free Choice Act -- but without the vote of every Democrat, and a handful of Northeast Republicans, the bill will die.
Democrats can expect to come out of November with 55-58 Senate seats, not including Joe Lieberman, who'll probably go along with the Democrats on a number of cloture votes. That puts us in a very good position to beat filibusters on a number of crucial legislative initiatives. But every seat that goes to a far-right Republican is a body blow to our ability to really take advantage of our majority. Barack Obama needs to ask himself whether Evan Bayh is worth possibly losing meaningful health reform or immigration reform.
He isn't. No VP candidate is. It's not Bayh's fault -- but circumstances dictate that he is most valuable to an Obama presidency as a senator from Indiana. Someone else can fill in as Obama's running mate. And it should be someone whose accession to the vice-presidency doesn't come at the cost of Obama's legislative agenda.