Evan Bayh's surprise retirement announcement comes only four days before the filing deadline for the Indiana primary. Since Indiana requires Senate candidates to submit 500 signatures from each of the state's nine congressional districts (by tomorrow!), there is no feasible way for a new candidate to announce and gather the necessary signatures before the filing deadline.
So, this means that the only option left for Democrats in Indiana is for the state party to select a candidate. As such, there will be no primary election:
R.J. Gerard, communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party confirmed to TPMDC that the state Democratic Party would be able to select a new candidate to run in November's general election if no one files petitions with 4,500 signatures (500 within each of the state's nine House districts) to run in the primary.
"I would imagine that it would be the plan, depending on what happens between now and Friday," Gerard said. Gerard did not know whether any discussions are going on with potential new candidates.
This means the Indiana Democrats would avoid holding a primary to choose who will be their nominee in the fall.
Who might the state party choose? The Indiana bench, at least at the Congressional level, is weak.
They could go with Pete Visclosky, given that he has a decent amount of cash on hand and comes from a district (IN-01) that Democrats would not lose if he ran for Senate. Problem is, Visclosky has a lot of corruption issues hanging over his head.
They could go with Baron Hill. Problem is, polling shows Hill getting smacked pretty badly in his own district, so he might not be viable.
They could go with Andre Carson, but would Indiana really be the first state to put a Muslim in the Senate? Doesn't feel like a red state in 2010 is when that barrier will be broken.
So, among Indiana Congressman, this basically leaves Joe Donnelly by default. This would not be very exciting, given that Donnelly is one of the most conservative members of the Democratic House caucus. His lifetime Progressive Punch score on crucial votes is only 33.78%, ranking him 245 out of the 255 current Democratic members of the House.
Anyway, given the anti-Washington mood, it is probably a good idea for the Indiana state party to look outside of the Congressional delegation. Hopefully, they can find a Mayor or State Senator in the mold of Eric Massa or Alan Grayson. Anti-financial institution and anti-bailout rhetoric is probably the best chance Democrats have in red districts this year. Also, Massa and Grayson also happen to be the only two members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus from lean-Republican districts. They have the only proven model for Progs in Republican districts.
Update--another Democrat already in the race: There is an existing candidate, Tamyra d'Ippolito. She has 23 followers on Twitter, 2 donations on Act Blue, and a pretty bare bones campaign website. She hasn't collected the signatures to get on the ballot yet, and I doubt that she will given what appears to be a very small organization. But, if she did somehow get on the ballot, the Democratic Party would probably have to defeat her in a write-in campaign. Otherwise, she would be the nominee, and Republicans would cruise in the general election.
Kind of makes me wonder if Republicans will start helping her get on the ballot now..
Update 2--Dem strategists leaning toward Brad Ellsworth: A member of Congress I forgot about, Brad Ellsworth, is being floated by Democratic strategists:
Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D) is the early name Dem strategists are throwing around. He easily beat ex-Rep. John Hostettler (R) in '06 to capture a centrist district, and he has cut a moderate swath in his 2 terms in the House.
Its true that Ellsworth defeated Hostettler. However, Hostettler is not a strong candidate. If Hostettler were to win the Republican primary, the seat would be very winnable for Democrats.
There are three problems with Ellsworth: he is in D.C., his House seat would be taken over by a Republican, and he is just as right-wing as Donnelly.
They need to pick someone from outside of D.C. who is willing to go after financial institutions. That is the model right now.