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Bayh Go Bye-Bye?

Just as Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh seems to be rising to the top of Democratic presidential hopeful Al Gore's short list for vice president, national abortion rights groups have lashed out.

Bayh could hurt the national Democratic ticket, say leaders of the National Organization for Woman and the National Abortion Rights League.

"It causes me no small amount of heartburn that I have been hearing about the possibility of Bayh," said Kim Gandy, executive vice president of NOW. "I didn't take it seriously because I did not think Gore would ever select someone who is so weak on women's rights."

Gandy was referring primarily to Bayh's legislative record on abortion issues. Though he supports women's reproductive rights, he has voted for a 24-hour waiting period and is against the late term abortion procedure some call "partial birth abortion."

The women's advocacy groups appear to be the main organized opponents against Bayh as a vice presidential choice for Gore.

Bayh is, however, popular among Washington's policy-makers. Here's what they say he brings to a national ticket:

  • As a former governor he has ability to become president in an emergency.
  • He is young, energetic and attractive and can appeal to new voters.
  • He offers a conservative political resume to southern Republicans and independents.
  • As a Midwesterner, he could help deliver the Cornbelt states that may be crucial in a Democratic win.
And on top of that, Bayh and Gore get along personally, and ranking Democratic officials who are helping Gore also worked closely with Bayh in his two terms as governor of Indiana. Among them: Joe Andrew, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who was chairman of the Indiana Democratic Committee and was offered a role on Gore's staff in 1997. Former Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Director Cheryl Sullivan is now issues director at Gore's Nashville headquarters.

Ron Faucheux, editor of Campaigns and Elections magazine, said Bayh is among the top tier of Democrats Gore is considering.

"He's definitely in the top four or five. I think he's well suited for Gore, depending on what Gore wants to do," Faucheux said.

But Bayh could face problems.

Jack Germond, the long-time political columnist for The Baltimore Sun, thinks the abortion issue could sink Bayh's chances, particularly if Gore is relying on a strong turnout of women.

"I don't think that he meets the litmus test," he said.

Germond also cites other reasons that work against a Gore-Bayh ticket.

"Bayh is a Gore clone - both sons of senators, both alumni of St. Albans prep school. They even look alike," Germond said.