By Brendan Loy
Bayh’s retirement also sets up a very confusing situation because it comes just 24 hours from the registration deadline for statewide candidates! While Indiana’s filing deadline is on Friday, Senate candidates need to deposit 500 signatures from each of the state’s nine congressional districts by noon tomorrow to qualify for the fall ballot.
The twist: If no Democrat whatsoever has qualified, party officials can appoint a replacement for that vacancy. This should be the party’s saving grace since it is virtually impossible for anyone to collect 4,500 signatures within the next 24 hours. The first question, then, is whether any Democrat who was already running can qualify for the ballot by tomorrow. It looks like only one person was planning a challenge to Bayh: Tamyra d’Ippolito, who entered the race as a progressive critic of the senator. Just three days ago, d’Ippolito said she was 1,000 signatures short. If she finds them by tomorrow, Democrats need to either stick with her or convince her to withdraw; if she fails, a party committee made of up 32 Democratic officials (ethnic caucus leaders, county leaders) will get to choose a replacement who could bypass a primary.
Put another way, as blogger Hoosierpundit says: “If Tamyra D’Ippolito is on the ballot, then that’s all she wrote. They can’t pick anyone else. She will be their nominee, period.”
Now, look, I don’t know anything about Tamyra D’Ippolito, and I don’t have time to research it in-depth right now. But — just a guess here — a “progressive critic” of Senator Bayh, who was planning to challenge him from the left (despite what must have been despite overwhelming establishment opposition to such a move), is probably not the Democratic Party’s ideal candidate for U.S. Senate, from an electability perspective, in reddish-purple Indiana, particularly in a political climate where Democrats are clinging to dear life amid mounting public anger and Tea Party madness and liberal PANIC!!!!!! In an e-mail exchange with my dad, I speculated that D’Ippolito is probably a “wingnut.” I don’t know if that’s true — maybe she is a wingnut, maybe she isn’t — but either way, she’s almost certainly not the type of candidate who is particularly likely to keep Indiana blue in the current political environment. If D’Ippolito is the candidate, Indiana probably becomes even more “solid R” than North Dakota, and the Democrats effectively start their November math from a base total of 57 seats.
Furthermore, in terms of her profile and, er, plausibility or seriousness or mainstream-ness, or whatever you want to call it, I’m thinking it’s not a good sign that her official campaign website includes, as one of its top “Current Topics,” a story (actually a message-board posting, apparently by the candidate herself) headlined “IDS just called they are doing an article.” The “IDS” is, ahem, the Indiana Daily Student — the student newspaper of the University of Indiana. So, to review, the candidate is super-duper happy, to the point of trumpeting it as breaking news, that the student paper at her hometown school (she lives in Bloomington) is OMG!!!, doing an article about her. Also, did I mention her website is purple?
Ladies and gentlemen, this could be your Democratic nominee for Senate in Indiana, if she — with the help of the Indiana netroots, or whatever portion of it is myopically ideological and anti-establishment enough to think that D’Ippolito’s candidacy would be Great News! For Democrats! — can drum up 1,000 or so signatures (in the proper geographic regions) in the next 24 hours. Her Facebook Page makes clear she understands the stakes, and is actively trying to accomplish this.
As I wrote to my dad, “assuming she gets the signatures, and further assuming that she refuses with withdraw (which, if she’s a wingnut, is a good bet), this is going to become a big-time kerfuffle in the Hoosier State, with the Democrats desperately trying to find some way to twist/change/ignore the rules.” Can you say New Jersey?
AFTERTHOUGHT: Come to think of it, forget the netroots; if the Indiana Republicans are smart, they should start collecting signatures for her, right now. I’m serious. And if the GOP institutionally isn’t behind such an effort, the Tea Party crowd should do it. If there was ever a moment for a “Limbaugh Effect,” this would be it. (Of course, such meddling would also give the Dems an argument for twisting/changing/ignoring the rules.)
P.S. I hadn’t noticed this before, but it appears the aforelinked Hoosierpundit falls exactly into this camp. He describes himself as a “right-of-center conservative cynic,” and has an anti-Obama graphic on his homepage. And he points out:
The form to get her signatures is available here.
You do not need to be in contact with the campaign to get signatures. Just print the above form, get signatures of registered voters on it, and get it turned in to your county clerk’s office by noon tomorrow (February 16).
This could get very interesting.
P.P.S. I’m having a minor crisis of conscience about whether I should link-whore this post to InstaPundit. Seems like he might appreciate it, and maybe link to it. But if he links, that would increase the odds of a Limbaugh Effect (or Reynolds Effect) happening, and D’Ippolito succeeding, which would in turn increase the odds of Republicans taking back Indiana’s Senate seat, which I don’t really want to happen. Hmmmm. … [UPDATE: For those keeping score at home, the tally is: Shameless self-promotion 1, Center-left political leanings 0. Welcome, InstaPundit readers! :) ]
UPDATE: Free advice to the Democrats: if D’Ippolito qualifies for the ballot, your argument should be to change the rules — extended deadline, whatever — to allow an additional candidate(s) on the primary ballot, in light of Bayh’s last-minute withdrawal. You should NOT attempt to change the rules (or aggressively challenge petitions etc.) in order to somehow muscle D’Ippolito out entirely. If the party is arguing for greater access and more voter choice, that’s difficult to oppose, particularly for lefties. If it’s just blatantly and ham-handedly trying to get rid of D’Ippolito without going to the voters, that’s easy to oppose. So, don’t make it about D’Ippolito; make it about ensuring the voters have a choice in light of the last-minute change of circumstances. Without knowing the relevant legalities, I can say this is a compelling policy argument, at least — whereas trying to strong-arm some hand-picked establishment successor onto the ballot, while shoving D’Ippolito off, would be terrible, terrible optics, and would give her a built-in liberal constituency that would then perhaps allow her to win a potential primary, if Plan A (“get rid of her”) fails and the Dems are forced to fall back on Plan B (“primary her”).
Because this is all perfectly obvious, the Democrats will undoubtedly do the exact opposite.
UPDATE 2: A commenter points out that, if D’Ippolito qualifies, the Democrats could simply coalesce around a write-in candidate. I hadn’t thought of that, and it’s true — but I don’t agree that it’s a particularly “easy” solution, or one that’s likely to succeed. The commenter writes that it “shouldn’t be a problem for a machine,” which might be true if the entire state was comprised of Gary. But the reality is that it’s simply much harder to get voters to write in a candidate’s name than to pull the lever for the designated Democrat on the ballot. I would imagine that this strategy would cost the Democrats at least a couple of percentage points — and they really can’t afford that, when it’s going to be awfully hard to win in this environment, in that state, even with a (good) candidate on the ballot. Given the circumstances, a Democratic write-in victory is, it seems to me, just an impossibly heavy lift.
Meanwhile, with regard to what Bayh is thinking with his odd timing, Hotline writes:
Bayh could still file to run, then drop out. But if he does not file his signatures tomorrow, no other Dem is expected to collect the required…signatures by [tomorrow's deadline], meaning Dems will get the chance to pick their own nominee. Some DC Dems say the process is the best-case scenario short of having Bayh on the ballot for a 3rd term; allowing the party to pick a nominee will avoid a primary.
Unlike Democrats, Republicans already have candidates vying for their party’s nomination, including former Rep. John Hostetler and Senator-turned-lobbyist Dan Coats. Because the signature deadline is tomorrow, that pretty much sets the GOP field. Unless both Hostetler and Coats were to withdraw, Republicans won’t be in a position to choose a nominee as will Democrats. The implication of that: Bayh’s timing appears to make it nearly impossible for candidates like Rep. Mike Pence (who says he will not run despite Bayh’s retirement) or Gov. Mitch Daniels to get on the ballot.
So…Bayh’s timing here may actually give Democrats the best chance at holding onto the seat.
Interesting. But of course d’Ippolito is the massive (potential) fly in this ointment. It might’ve been wiser for Bayh to wait till tomorrow morning to make this announcement, rather than give d’Ippolito 24 hours to try and rally her troops (and the netroots troops, and the Tea Party troops, and…).
P.P.P.S. Incidentally, it appears that d’Ippolito is explicitly forming alliances with Tea Partiers, in hopes of getting the requisite signatures. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Why, I know some Tea Partiers who are perfectly nice people. :) Hehe. But it may not exactly be music to partisan Democrats’ ears. And if I may offer some more unsolicited advice, d’Ippolito may want to ponder the possible ulterior motives of her newfound friends.
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