Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) announced his retirement because he feared he would lose to his main Republican competitor, ex-Sen. Dan Coats, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Tuesday.
Bayh on Monday cited the lack of bipartisanship in Washington as the reason for his retirement, but Inofe said that the centrist Democratic senator was looking over his shoulder in a tough year for incumbents.
But Bayh's announcement came as a surprise to some in part because of several strong signs regarding his reelection campaign this fall.
Bayh had $13 million in his campaign war chest at the time of his announcement and held a 20 point lead over Coats in a Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll released last week. The poll was conducted Feb. 8-10.
When asked to reconcile his statements with polling data showing
Bayh with a big lead, Inhofe said Bayh led "because no one knew at that
time that Dan was running."
Reports, however, emerged of Coats' candidacy as early as Feb. 2.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has also attacked Coats work as a federal lobbyist after he left the Senate in 1999, highlighting his ties to big industry and hostile foreign regimes.
But Inhofe said "He had to leave to make some money to put his kids through school but now he's coming back."
The Oklahoma senator's comments come after Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele issued a stinging statement Monday, saying Bayh was "running for the hills" because he, along with other centrist Democrats, had "sold out their constituents."