Dem Sen. Bayh: Fall elections will be of 'comparable magnitude' to 1994, 1980

Democrats are likely to face losses in this fall's elections comparable to the kind they suffered in 1980 and 1994, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said Thursday.

Bayh, a centrist Democrat who is retiring at the end of his term early next year, said it would be tough for his party to do much to reverse Democrats' course, except maybe to limit the party's losses in November.

"I'd put this right up there," Bayh said of the 2010 elections in comparison to the 1980 and 1994 cycles, during an appearance on MSNBC. "I think it's of comparable magnitude."

Both of those cycles saw major Republican victories. The GOP won 12 Senate seats — enough to win back control of the chamber — in 1980. The party picked up 35 seats in the House, but that wasn't enough to win back control of the House.

The 1994 midterm elections saw heavier gains in the House, where the GOP won 54 seats and handed Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) the Speakership. Republicans retook the Senate that year, too, after winning eight seats.

Bayh said that an enthusiasm gap among Democrats and Republicans was a major contributor to the woes his party would face this fall. Democratic voters, Bayh said, were "let down," though he said he thought such a sentiment was "unreasonable."

The Indiana senator, whose father suffered defeat in the 1980 elections, said he thought it would be difficult for President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress to get off the course on which they're heading, toward major electoral losses in November.

He said that some bread-and-butter stimulus items, like a payroll tax cut, might limit Democratic losses, "at least at the margins."