Obama and Bayh, Sitting in a Tree … Sort Of

By Jennifer Parker

Aug 6, 2008 11:04am

ABC News’ John Berman, Sunlen Miller, and Andy Fies in Elkhart, Indiana report: It was almost a double man-hug.  But just what does it mean?  After, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh gave a rousing 12-minute introduction to Barack Obama in Elkhart, Ind., this morning, Senator Barack Obama bounded on stage for an embrace.  The two men held each other for a moment, speaking words no one else could hear.  And just when it looked like it was over, they went in for more. So does this mean they are more than just friends? More than just a couple Midwesterners? More than just Senate colleagues?  Could it be that sometime soon, very soon even, they could be running mates? Bayh is on many of the so-called short-lists for prospective Democratic vice presidential candidates (by media types at least).  He has artfully dodged and deflected questions about whether he is being considered; his coyness though, betraying an apparent, even obvious desire. Today he put on display some of the traits that might make him attractive.  First of all, he pointed out that Indiana is a state Democrats normally don’t compete in.  In the past, “the Democratic nominee has written us off,” Bayh said.  But the Obama campaign sees it as an opportunity, running neck and neck with John McCain in the battleground state in most public polling. And what could help Obama more in Indiana that an enormously popular native son?  Evan Bayh was an enormously popular governor in Indiana before he was and enormously popular senator.  And his father was an enormously popular senator before that (with national aspirations himself.) The Bayh name might be able to tip the scales in a tight race.  What’s more, Bayh supported Sen. Hillary Clinton during the primaries, so could serve as an olive branch to that part of the party. The knock against Bayh is that he can come across as a little bland.  But not today.  His 12 minute introduction was loud, energetic, and enthusiastic.  He delivered it almost flawlessly, barely looking at notes.  And he even told a joke, saying that John McCain’s energy policy is to, “Drill drill drill … sounds like my dentist.”  People actually laughed. So was this a meeting of future team mates?  Was it an audition?  Is that why Obama was in Indiana today?  Evan Bayh wouldn’t say: “Barack Obama is here with us today because he cared enough to come,” he said. And for his part, Obama wouldn’t say either.  After Bayh’s introduction and the hug was over, Obama said, “what a wonderful greeting and introduction …  Give a round of applause to one of the most wonderful United States senators we have.” Just how wonderful?  We are still left to wonder. Bayh did, however, catch a ride on Obama’s campaign bus giving the presumptive Democratic nominee and a possible VP candidate 74 miles -or an hour and 18 minutes – to talk. The senators loaded on Obama’s "myluxurybus.com" campaign bus separately. Bayh was accompanied by his deputy chief of staff Linda Moore Forbes, who flew out from Bayh’s DC Senate office yesterday. Obama senior strategist Robert Gibbs and campaign aides were also aboard for the ride. The two senators were driving to the second of Obama’s campaign events of the day – to a retail stop at a local diner in Portage, Indiana where they will team up for the obligatory retail stop: shaking hands, kissing babies, and maybe even sampling some pie. As VP speculation runs rampant — and Bayh’s name is rumored to be on the short list — the face time between the two Senators is significant. Just yesterday, Bayh told the Indianapolis Star that he knew of no planned meetings being scheduled between him and Obama. But surely an hour bus ride is enough time to talk shop? For more reporting on potential VP candidates, click on ABC’s The Note. ABC News’ Teddy Davis contributed to this report.

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