The Democratic retirement wave has been limited mostly to the House (where more Republicans have actually announced retirements) but Bayh’s retirement follows exit announcements by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-SD) and Chris Dodd (D-CT).
And it makes the race or Bayh’s seat more competitive.
Bayh’s seat has been rated as “lean Democratic” by the Cook Political Report, and Democrats had succeeded in launching a relentless attack on former Sen. Dan Coats (R) since he entered his name into race against Bayh. Bayh had led both Coats and fellow challenger John Hostettler (a former congressman) by double digits–Coats by 20 points and Hostettler by 16 points in recent polls.
Bayh had nearly $13 million in campaign cash and was in good shape for the 2010 race.
Update: The Indy Star has more:
In prepared remarks, Bayh, 54, cited excessive partisanship that makes progress on public policy difficult to achieve as the motivation for his decision.
“After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so in Congress has waned,” he said.
“My decision was not motivated by political concern,” he added. “Even in the current challenging environment, I am confident in my prospects for re-election.”
Bayh had never lost an election, from his first win in 1986 as secretary of state, his wins for governor in 1988 and 1992 and his election to the U.S. Senate in 1998 and 2004.
“But running for the sake of winning an election, just to remain in public office, is not good enough,” Bayh said. “And it has never been what motivates me. At this time I simply believe I can best contribute to society in another way: creating jobs by helping grow a business, helping guide an institution of higher learning or helping run a worthy charitable endeavor.”