Evan Bayh to run for Senate
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Former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s decision to jump into the Indiana Senate race has upended the battle for the Senate majority in 2016 by expanding the map for Democrats.

The former senator’s impending decision to run for Senate, confirmed by a source familiar with the plan, comes after the party’s previous nominee, former Rep. Baron Hill, stepped aside Monday. 

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It’s the Democratic Party’s answer to Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFreedom to Compete Act would benefit many American workers Booker, Harris have missed most Senate votes Dems say attorney general undermined credibility with Trump talking point MORE (R-Fla.), whose surprise announcement to run for reelection last month made him the instant favorite in a seat Democrats had hoped to flip.

Bayh’s move upends the strategy for a seat many saw as an easy win for the GOP. 

Democrats need to gain four seats to retake the Senate majority in November if they retain the White House, and five if they do not. 

They are favored to win seats in Illinois and Wisconsin, and Republicans are embattled in three other states won by President Obama in the last two presidential cycles: New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Ohio. 

With Bayh’s entry into the Indiana Senate race, Democrats gain another big target as they seek to defeat GOP Rep. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungGOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Menendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions Senate GOP proposes constitutional amendment to keep Supreme Court at 9 seats MORE in the general election. But it’s still a difficult state for Democrats — Obama lost there in 2012 after winning in 2008, and a 2015 Gallup Poll confirmed the state’s rightward drift in both party identification and leanings.

“This is a strategically unbelievably good move,” said Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

“Baron Hill was losing in the money race and he was behind in what polling data was available. ... This was looking like potentially another loss for Baron Hill, and if anyone is going to be able to pull this loss out of the fire, it’s [Bayh].”

Hill officially announced his withdrawal from the Senate race on Monday morning in an email to supporters that did not mention Bayh. Instead, he said he had to put his “country above my own political ambitions,” noting that Democrats have a strong shot at the seat with a candidate who has the “money, name identification and resources to win.”

And Bayh followed with a measured statement praising Hill that made no reference to his future bid. 

CNN first reported Bayh’s decision Monday morning before the flurry of statements.

By Monday afternoon, both The Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics shifted the race from favoring Republicans to “toss-up,” while Roll Call’s The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report declared the race “tilts Democrat.”

Democrats had hoped Bayh, an Indiana governor for eight years, would run to replace retiring Republican Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsJordan, Meadows press intelligence chief on House Intel Russia probe transcripts Overnight Energy: John Kerry hits Trump over climate change at hearing | Defends Ocasio-Cortez from GOP attacks | Dems grill EPA chief over auto emissions rollback plan Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill MORE — the man who replaced him in 2010 after Bayh surprisingly stepped aside just before the filing deadline for his third term — but Bayh had refused to enter the primary. 

Democrats remained tight-lipped about the origins of the plan, with future Senate Democratic leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference MORE’s (N.Y.) office declining to comment as to whether he played a role wooing Bayh — son of popular Birch Bayh, who represented Indiana in Congress for nearly 30 years — out of retirement. 

The Washington Post noted that the younger Bayh and Schumer had a strong relationship and that Schumer left a 2015 interview with the paper to check on Bayh’s wife’s recovery from a benign brain tumor operation. 

Bayh represents a major fundraising improvement for the Democrats. That will instantly allow him to start spending on building an infrastructure and on advertising, moves especially important to help him reach out to newer Indiana voters, experts say, considering he hasn’t been on the ballot since 2004. 

Through mid-April, Hill’s last fundraising report, he had just $387,000 in the bank. Bayh, on the other hand, has almost $9.3 million on hand.

That’s far more than Young’s $1.1 million, a reality that could force Republicans to ramp up spending in the hopes of keeping the seat competitive. 

“To take the pressure to raise an enormous amount of money instantly off, it can’t be overstated how big of a deal that is,” said one Democratic strategist with ties to Indiana. 

“He’s going to have to spend less time raising money down the home stretch, more time campaigning and talking to voters. It’s a huge asset.” 

But as he parachutes into the race with just months to go, as Rubio did just weeks ago, Bayh will likely face many of the same questions that Rubio faces. 

Once seen as a potential presidential candidate who considered running in 2008, Bayh announced his decision to leave the Senate in 2010, lamenting the partisan gridlock and poor personal relationships inside the body in a long opinion piece in The New York Times. 

“He lambasted the whole idea of Congress and how partisan it’s become, essentially saying that this place was so unworkable that I’m just going to leave rather than try to fix it. It’s only gotten worse, Senator,” said Pete Seat, an Indiana-based Republican strategist who previously worked for the state GOP. 

“I’m curious to hear the rationale other than: ‘I want back in, and the other guy wasn’t going to win.’ ”

Bayh’s opponents have already signaled they’ll seize on his work for the Washington, D.C., branch of the law firm McGuireWoods, where he’s served as a partner since 2011. 

Although he has never been a registered lobbyist, Bayh has also maintained the title of senior adviser at the firm’s lobbying arm, McGuireWoods Consulting, in Washington. And last month, he and his wife hosted a fundraiser for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Former Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' Seth Rich's brother calls for those pushing conspiracy to 'take responsibility' MORE through McGuireWoods’s political action committee. 

Young, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and other Republicans immediately cast Bayh as a political opportunist and a yes man in statements.

“This seat isn’t the birthright of a wealthy lobbyist from Washington, it belongs to the people of Indiana,” Young campaign manager Trevor Foughty said in a statement.

Seat noted how Republicans are already playing up Bayh’s vote for ObamaCare and its medical device tax. Many medical device companies call Indiana home, and Bayh never had to face the voters after deciding to back ObamaCare thanks to his retirement. 

But the Democratic strategist swatted down those concerns, arguing the brand Bayh’s built will defend him. 

“The burden of proof is going to be on Republicans,” he said. 

“They are not trying to knock down an unknown quantity; they are looking to push down what I imagine is a strong favorable rating.”