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Evan Bayh Won’t Run in 2010

Indiana’s Democratic senator announces that he won’t seek re-election despite raising $13 million for the contest and leaving his party four days to find a replacement — which creates a similar problem in the districts of congressmen tipped as replacement candidates, like Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) and Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.).

Here are two measures of what a surprise this is. One: Ken Spain, spokesman for the NRCC, simply tweets “unreal” as he begins a series of observations about what this means for Democrats. Two: A Democratic strategist confirms to me that Bayh didn’t let anyone at any level of the party know about this, and shares with me an expletive I won’t share about the man himself.

Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling comments that more bad news like this could throw the Senate to the GOP. It’s not so much that Bayh is gone — he clearly had a glass jaw, and Democrats may find a credible candidate to hold the seat against the deeply flawed former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.). It’s more that nothing is breaking the Democrats’ way.

UPDATE: The Cook Political Report’s take:

With Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s decision not to seek a third term in November, the race moves to the Lean Republican column. While Democrats have not had the opportunity to assess their options, it is unlikely that they will be able to come up with a strong enough candidate to compete in a GOP-leaning state in the current political climate.

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