This weekend, I watched C-Span's Road to the White House coverage of an appearance (I wouldn't call it a speech, exactly) by Indiana Senator Evan Bayh to New Hampshire over the 4th of July.
He wasn't visionary. Asked about Iraq he merely said (paraphrase): mistakes have been made, there're no easy solutions, but we need to stay the course.
He wasn't at all partisan or bombastic (which maybe is understandable at this stage and considering the small group he was visiting).
And he didn't present any 21-point plans.
He gently but firmly stated his opposition to the view by one of the attendies that the past two elections (at least the last one) had been "stolen". He said Democrats needed to do a better job at responding to people's needs and presenting a positive alternative.
In response to another inquiry, he calmly advocated that PBS remain non-partisan in its governing and professional in its coverage, skillfully weaving in a critique of the Republican policy of conservative political correctness.
A quick check of his voting record reveals that he has supported a flag-burning amendment to the Constitution but also voted against the gay-marriage amendment.
His vote on the bankruptcy bill was, if I remember correctly, bizarrely, no to the vote on closure (meaning the Dems couldn't maintain a filibuster), but ultimately no on the legislation (he voted for it before he voted against it).
He once and recently headed the DLC, comes from one of the most reddest of states, and as a consequence isn't near the progressive I'd prefer to see nominated.
Nonetheless, I liked him. He comes across well. He sounds and seems reasonable, measured and most important of all, genuinely genuine. Comfortable in his own skin. All that crap.
In my view, he stacks up rather well against the rest of the Democratic field. Of the other major contenders, his candidacy seems the less problematic. He doesn't have the baggage of HRC or Kerry. He doesn't have Richardson's DOE tenure to defend and wouldn't have to overcome any latent ethnic prejudices. He doesn't have Feingold's two divorces to justify. He doesn't have Joe Biden's plagiarism reputation. He's more experienced than Edwards. Although not charismatic in the usual sense, he's well spoken and authentic. He represents an important red state that were he to get the nomination he could conceivable win or at least make competitive.
And oddly enough, despite my previous post and usual ruminations about temperement and ideology, I like his demeanor and approach. I don't think Kerry campaigned as poorly as some on both the left and the right have made it seem, but the last election left a bad taste in my mouth. Bayh would in some ways represent the most marked departure from past campaigns and candidates. He's a fresh face that would help the party chart a new course.
Finally, he presents a measured and reassuring intelligent but non-partisan style that could be useful in a general election campaign and most importantly, in the presidency itself.
But he will need to come up with a more compelling vision and rationale for his candidacy if he is to get the nomination. And along with his calmness, he will need to demonstrate a strength of determination and ability to fight back to show he's up to the job. A difficult needle to thread for sure. But I'm willing to hear and see more.