September 27, 2016

THE HILL: Indiana Senate race tightens as Republicans take on Bayh.

Democrat Evan Bayh’s last-minute attempt at a political comeback made this year’s Senate race in Indiana look all but over for Republicans hoping to hold on to the open seat.

But with six weeks until the general election, polls are tightening and the contest is looking more like a toss-up as Senate control hangs in the balance.

The former Indiana senator has weathered attacks from both GOP Rep. Todd Young’s campaign and Republican outside groups who are trying to undercut the advantage Bayh has from being well-known in the state with attacks about his residency and ties to a lobbying group.

Bayh, who strategists say still has the upper hand, went from a double-digit lead in August to a 4-point edge, within the margin of error in a WTHR/Howey Politics poll, earlier this month.

“Anyone who thought this was going to be a cakewalk for [Bayh] I think was making a mistake,” said Andrew Downs, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. “He had not run a campaign in 12 years, and the nature of campaigning has changed.”

When Bayh announced his candidacy for retiring GOP Sen. Dan Coats’s seat in mid-July, some political observers argued that less than four months until the election wouldn’t be enough time for Young to strengthen his statewide name recognition, especially compared to Bayh, a household name in Indiana politics for more than 50 years. Bayh’s father, Birch, was a senator from 1963 to 1981, and Evan Bayh was also governor for eight years.

The once-safe Republican seat shifted to a toss-up, and even in some cases, Democratic-leaning, once Bayh entered the race.

But over the last two months, Young has slowly become known beyond his southern Indiana district, especially with the influx of outside money supporting his campaign.

Well, stay tuned. Funny that the Dems in Indiana didn’t have any existing talent that could make this a race, and had to bring Bayh out of retirement.

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