Ratings Change: Indiana Senate Moves to Toss-Up/Tilt Democratic

Nathan L. Gonzales July 11, 2016 · 11:55 AM EDT

Former Sen. Evan Bayh will run for the Senate after all, buoying Democrats’ chances of winning the open seat in Indiana and the Senate majority.

The news, first reported by CNN’s Tom LoBianco, is surprising considering Bayh, who didn’t seek re-election in 2010, had shown no interest in running, despite Democratic recruitment efforts earlier in the cycle. Democratic nominee/former Rep. Baron Hill will step aside and allow the state party to replace him on the ballot. 

Hill wasn’t raising the money necessary for a top-tier campaign against GOP Rep. Todd Young in the race to replace Republican Sen. Dan Coats, who is retiring, but Bayh immediately changes the dynamic.

We’re changing our rating from Republican Favored to Toss-Up/Tilt Democratic. 

Bayh won’t have a lot of time to shake off any rust from his campaign apparatus since he hasn’t been on the general election ballot since 2004. But if he was initially turned off by a long campaign, Bayh now has a four-month sprint to November and he had over $9.2 million sitting in his campaign account, so he won’t have to spend as much time raising money. 

“He shakes it up,” according to one GOP sources in the state. “He left six years ago in a very classy way by attacking the system- Republicans and Democrats.” 

Of course, Republicans won’t give him a free pass. They’ll bring up his votes for the Affordable Care Act, overall voting record with President Barack Obama (including the so-called stimulus bill), and lack of effectiveness while in the Senate and his lobbying record after he left

Republicans will also highlight the lack of time he has spent in Indiana, including expensive homes in the Washington, D.C. area and Florida. (Residency was a key factor in Sen. Richard Lugar’s fall in the GOP primary in 2012.) And Bayh, a former two-term governor and son of a Senator, will be portrayed as a lifelong politician.  

But Indiana voters don’t automatically know, believe, or remember the negative parts of Bayh’s background. Republicans will have to litigate that case in the coming months. The bottom line is that Indiana is now firmly in the list of competitive states that will decide the majority and require considerable spending from the GOP side that the party previously would not have had to spend.