Coats said he hasn't been following the day-to-day maneuverings around the financial regulatory reform debate to say for sure how he'd vote. But he expressed concern that Congress would overreact and wind up passing new regulations that would add to consumers' costs.
"Congress legislates all the way to this and drags everybody else into it, and I'm afraid if we're not careful that's what'll happen on financial reform," Coats said.
Coats said he would return to the Senate with a different perspective than he had in his first stint in office, colored in part by his experiences since leaving the Senate.
Coats was tasked by the Bush White House with shepherding Harriet Miers' nomination through the Senate in 2005 -- a doomed quest, with President Bush forced to withdraw her name from consideration amid GOP and Democratic opposition.
Miers, like Elena Kagan now, faced questions about her lack of judicial experience. Coats was placed in the position of defending Miers' "life experience," as opposed to "judicial experience."
He said in the interview that those questions are legitimate -- whether asked of Miers then or of Kagan now.
"I don't think that's a necessarily absolute prerequisite, but it's an important qualification," Coats said, "because it provides a record and it gives people an insight to how they view the Constitution, the role of a judge or a justice, and an insight into whether or not they are a strict constructionist, whether they think it's a living document and all these things. You have a record to match the rhetoric."
"Yeah, it's legitimate, but I'm not saying it's a deal-breaker. But it's one of the important considerations," Coats said.
As for his opponent this fall, Coats cited Ellsworth's support for the health care law as evidence that he's an "enabler" for the Democratic agenda. And though they're vying for the Senate, it's the House speaker on Coats' mind.
"In other words, when push comes to shove, he does what Nancy Pelosi wants him to do," Coats said. "We elect you, we put our trust in you, you go to Washington, and then, for God's sake, you vote for Pelosi."