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Bayh under fire from the left

From MSNBC.com's Tom Curry

Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana is the target of a campaign by left-of-center Democratic groups like MoveOn.org, the Campaign for America's Future, and USAction, which accuse him and other centrist Democrats of what Bob Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America's Future, calls "standing in the way of the president's programs."

As previously mentioned, a new MoveOn radio ad, which will start running in Indiana Thursday, will urge listeners to "Call Senator Bayh at (202) 224-3121 and tell him to vote for the Obama budget. We've tried it Wall Street's way long enough. It's time Washington listens to the rest of us."

Video: Will Bayh's new caucus of eight moderate Democrats oppose White House policies?

Bayh was one of seven Democratic senators to sign a letter opposing the idea of using the budget reconciliation process, which requires only a simple majority vote rather than 60 votes, to pass a climate change cap-and-trade bill.

Bayh is running for a third term next year in a state that Obama barely carried last November, though Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win it since 1964. Bayh has never lost in five statewide elections (as secretary of state, governor, and senator).

Borosage said Bayh was wrong to oppose the use of the reconciliation process to enact Obama's agenda. "Giving (reconciliation) away preemptively reduces your ability to negotiate," Borosage said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "We might end up with a set of policies that have majority support with the public, majority support in the House, majority support in the Senate, and yet fail" because some Democrats oppose using reconciliation as the vehicle to pass them.

Borosage also ripped Bayh as "simply wrong-headed" for calling for the federal government to restrain its spending. America is "on the verge of a depression," Borosage said. "We need the federal government to be doing more, not less."

On MSNBC's Morning Joe last week, Bayh unveiled a centrist group of 15 Democrat senators whom he described as "pragmatists" and "not ideologues" and "not strident partisans." Three of the 15 are up for election next year -- Bayh himself, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

Bayh has a history of sparring with the left in his party. As chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council in 2003, he warned of then-rising presidential campaign of Howard Dean. "The Democratic Party is at risk of being taken over by the far left," he told DLC members in 2003. "We have an important choice to make: Do we want to vent, or do we want to govern?"

At the start of the 2008 campaign Bayh wasn't an Obama man. Bayh made a preliminary run for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination himself, with a campaign-style trip to Iowa in May 2006 and he showed up to campaign in New Hampshire in December 2006 on the eve of Obama's spectacular debut speech.

A few days later, Bayh quit the race. He vigorously backed Hillary Clinton over Obama for the nomination, helping her defeat Obama (narrowly) in the Indiana primary.

Asked what recourse they have against Democrats such as Bayh who may oppose part of Obama's agenda, Borosage said "I don't think we want to make that assumption yet. We assume that if you're from Colorado or from Indiana, where the president won handily, and you hear from your constituents, you'll get with the program ... rather than standing in the way."

William McNary, the president of USAction, argued that Obama carried Indiana -- and therefore Bayh should advance Obama's agenda. (But one might compare Obama's winning margin in Indiana, one percentage point, to Bayh's winning margin in 2004, 25 percentage points.)