Ellsworth to run for Indiana Senate

February 19, 2010

Indiana Rep. Brad Ellsworth has decided to seek the seat being vacated by Sen. Evan Bayh and will announce his intentions in a statement to be released shortly, according to a source briefed on the matter.

Ellsworth emerged as the favored candidate of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the White House in the immediate aftermath of Bayh’s stunning decision that he would not seek a third term.

Handsome, telegenic and with the sort of voting record during his two terms in the House that makes him a viable statewide candidate in conservative-minded Indiana, Ellsworth is rightly seen as a recruiting coup for a DSCC that was caught off guard by Bayh’s decision (as was the rest of the Democratic political world) and had been badly bruised and battered by retirements and the special election victory of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in recent weeks.

That said, Ellsworth is not Bayh and starts out at a significant name identification disadvantage against former Sen. Dan Coats, the likely Republican nominee. Republican strategists also note that Ellsworth supported President Obama’s health care bill last year, a vote they plan to use against him this fall.

Because no Democratic candidate filed the necessary signatures to qualify for the primary ballot, the 32-member Democratic state central committee will select the party’s candidate — although they cannot do so until after the scheduled May 4 primary. It’s also not clear whether any other Democrat will compete with Ellsworth for the Senate nomination; Rep. Baron Hill has expressed interest in a statewide race in the past.

Assuming Ellsworth is the Senate pick, he leaves behind a very difficult district for Democrats to hold in southern Indiana. While President Obama lost Ellsworth’s 8th district by only four points in 2008, George W. Bush carried the seat with 62 percent in 2004.
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