Although a Coats aide e-mailed Ben Smith a statement from the Senator-turned-lobbyist indicating that Coats was just 'testing the waters,' the statement text makes it pretty clear that Coats has made up his mind to run. Most likely, he is just trying to get two bites at the announcement apple, one for saying he's exploring a bid, the second for formally launching it.
As a former Senator, Coats seems like a strong candidate, but as Marc Ambinder documents, he is not without vulnerabilities:
Coats was a key behind-the-scenes force in convincing John McCain to take Sarah Palin seriously as a vice presidential candidate. He was a member of "The Family," a close-knit group of rigorously evangelical Christians who run, among things, the now well-known C Street rooming house in Washington, D.C. He also lobbied on behalf of Roache Diagnostics during the health battle reform battle.
He currently is a "senior policy adviser" for the firm of King and Spalding. He has also been a registered lobbyist for Bank of America, Lockheed Martin and the Decision Sciences Corporation. His most recent brush with national attention was in 2005, when he helped (or tried to help) the White House move Harriet Miers's Supreme Court nomination through the Senate.
So this is a guy who's involved with "The Family," helped pick Sarah Palin, lobbied against health care, and tried to put Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court. In other words, he's emblematic of Republican mediocrity.
Coats seems set to fight fire with fire. Greg Sargent reports that Republicans hope to inoculate Coats from criticism on his tenure as a lobbyist by launching a ferocious attack on Bayh's wife, who has sat on several corporate boards.
To be Bayhpartisan about it, that seems fair, right? Why shouldn't the GOP attack the Democratic candidate's wife if that's his best chance of getting elected?