By Scott Tibbs, May 12, 2011
With Joe Donnelly's announcement that he would be running for the U.S. Senate, the Indiana Democratic Party immediately sent an e-mail announcing that he would be "our next U.S. Senator." Aren't they getting a little ahead of themselves? It's normal for political parties to announce their nominee as "our next (fill in the blank)" but Donnelly is not the nominee yet. He is not even on the May 2012 primary ballot yet. That will not happen until next January.
It is possible, after all, that Donnelly will have a challenger in next year's primary election. Shouldn't the Democrats wait and see before anointing Donnelly? Do Democrats have a problem with allowing their own voters to choose their nominees in a contested primary election? History indicates that is the case.
As you may recall, the Democratic establishment had anointed Jim Schellinger as their candidate for governor, before Jill Long Thompson came in and won the primary. (See here, here and here.) Apparently, Democratic voters had a different idea of who should represent the party.
The Democrats learned from this in 2010, and would not allow the rabble to prevent the anointing of their chosen candidate. Evan Bayh was facing a challenge in the Democratic primary, though it was a race he would surely have won by a huge margin. When Bayh decided not to run again, he timed his announcement to prevent his opponent from gaining the momentum needed to get on the ballot. The Democratic establishment then anointed Brad Ellsworth, who went on to lose by a huge margin in the fall.
Will the same pattern follow with Donnelly's race to be 2012's sacrificial lamb? Will the Democratic Party once again demonstrate that their name does not describe the party at all?