Nightly News   |  February 15, 2010

Sen. Bayh abruptly exits politics

Saying he no longer can stomach the way Congress operates, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., announced on President's Day that he will not seek re-election. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

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>>> good evening on this president's day night, day three of the games in vancouver. but our attention is focused instead on a growing political story back home. one of the modern day bright lights of the democratic party and a well-known name in the u.s. senate said today he's calling quits and taking a big shot at washington on his way out. senator evan bayh says he's sick of how things work or don't work, and his departure from the senate further jumbles the political table for a still new democratic president. we begin tonight in washington with our chief white house correspondent and nbc news political director chuck todd . good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian . evan bayh isn't retiring because he thought he was going to lose this year. though he was going to have to work a little hard to win re-election this year, he's leaving because he's frustrated with washington .

>> i do not love congress.

>> reporter: evan bayh 's abrupt decision to retire and blunt explanation, gridlock.

>> there's much too much partisanship and not enough progress. too much ideology and not enough practical solving.

>> reporter: those close to bye say he had been waivering for months on whether to run again. he telegraphed his conversation in congress with president obama .

>> are we willing to make some of the tough decisions to head this country in another direction.

>> reporter: the president is frequently hammered on the gridlock.

>> they didn't send us to washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel cage match to see who comes out alive.

>> reporter: members of both parties are frustrated. retiring senator george voinavich failed on his bid for a deficit reduction commission.

>> on too many occasions congress has been unwilling to feel short term pain for long term gain.

>> reporter: many left in 1996 for the same reasons bayh cited today.

>> i'm much more partisan today. it's more acerbic.

>> partisanship. i've been in caucuses where we didn't spend any time at all talking about the issues, but how to diddle so and so on the other side.

>> reporter: in the last 14 years, things have gotten worse in the senate.

>> the partisan polarization is so severe at this point and shows no signs of letting up.

>> reporter: brian , evan bayh really left democrats in a lurch. a lot of senate democrats are upset with him tonight because there's a few days left before they can even find a candidate to run in indiana at this point. that in itself has left a lot of people wondering if evan bayh , when the tough got going, he went ahead and left. brian ?

>> chuck todd , bigger question, how to change this political atmosphere in this country. but a question for another day.

>>> we are following another major