Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker is highly skilled at the art of putting on a brave face.
He did so this week when I called to talk about the somewhat surprising decision by his mentor -- Sen. Evan Bayh -- to endorse Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid.
"The first thing I'll say is, I have faith in Evan Bayh's judgment," Parker said.
Bayh, he said, "has the best interests of Indiana and the country" in mind and did not "come to this decision quickly." He also predicted that Hoosiers who may not be Hillary Clinton fans "are going to give her a second look" if she claims the Democratic nomination.
"She is ready to do the job on Day One," Parker said, echoing words Bayh used in his endorsement statement.
I told Parker he was in fine spin mode, as it's clear the last thing many Indiana Democratic Party insiders want is Clinton at the top of the ticket next year. The reasoning is, Clinton will be an especially divisive figure in Republican-leaning Indiana, and a trickle-down effect could hurt Democratic chances of reclaiming the governor's office.
Tully offers two prevailing thoughts for Bayh's announcement: 1) "Bayh is hoping to jump on board the vice presidential train"; or 2) "As with many members of the U.S. Senate, Bayh is focused on his national profile." Tully includes in his discussion the take I gave on Bayh's endorsement. "Local blogger Gary Welsh called Clinton 'one of the least popular politicians in Indiana' and said Bayh was doing nothing more than putting 'his proverbial finger to the wind' in an attempt to get his name on a national ticket," Tully writes. And Tully doesn't necessarily disagree. He concludes: "Regardless, the announcement is classic Bayh. He joins the Clinton team at a time when she appears headed toward the nomination, but when it is still early enough to get a splash of national media attention. And perhaps a promise to get a close look as her running mate next year."
I should note that everyone has been thinking in terms of how Bayh could help the Democrats by being on the national ticket. There has been no attention paid to his potential drawbacks. I submit to you that if he does become a part of the national ticket, the national media will have a field day recounting how the Bayhs have used their insider political status to parlay millions for themselves during Evan's political career. How does a guy who entered public office in Indiana more than two decades ago owning little more than a $50,000 condo and a used BMW manage to build an estate worth at least $10 million, particularly when he only spent two years of that time working in the private sector as a "partner" at Baker & Daniels. And most of that two-year period was devoted to campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat and other Democratic candidates. Contrast that with Sen. Richard Lugar's financial standing. He entered the Senate as a millionaire in 1976. Today, he's worth no more than $2 million. Is Bayh a smarter investor than Lugar? Or is Bayh less discerning when it comes to public ethics? You'll be hearing plenty more on that if Bayh makes the national ticket.