Former President Bush visits Elkhart to boost Todd Young

(Photo supplied/ABC 57)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former President George W. Bush was in Indiana on Monday to raise money for U.S. Senate candidate Todd Young, the former front-runner in the race who unexpectedly became an underdog after a comparatively lackluster Democratic candidate dropped out to make way for Evan Bayh.

Bush has kept a low profile since leaving office in 2009, but has recently shown more of a willingness to involve himself in politics.

Young, a congressman who lives in Bloomington, says Bush’s presence underscores the importance of the race for Republicans, who are trying to block a Democratic effort to retake the Senate.

“We have a national spotlight correctly shined on this U.S. Senate race,” Young said at a news conference shortly before a fundraiser in Indianapolis. “This race could dictate the control of the U.S. Senate and even composition of the U.S. Supreme Court moving forward.”

The Indianapolis event at the JW Marriott was the second fundraiser Bush headlined for Young. Earlier in the day, the two appeared at an event in Elkhart.

Young soundly won the state’s Republican primary in May and was cruising to what appeared to be an easy victory against former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, an underfunded candidate whom he previously defeated in the 2010 Tea Party wave.

But then Hill dropped out in July and Democratic Party officials caucused in Bayh, a former Indiana governor and U.S. senator who had an almost nine-to-one cash advantage, with nearly $9.5 million in his campaign account.

Since then, Young has attacked Bayh at every chance and, on Monday, pointed out that polling data shows the race is tightening.

“Today is about the momentum our campaign has gained,” Young said. “It is essential that Indiana be represented by at least one Republican U.S. senator … who can ensure the Republicans serve as a check and balance against whomever the next president is.”

Ben Ray, communications director for the Bayh campaign, said in an email to The Associated Press that “Evan is proud to have worked across the aisle with Republicans like Senator (Richard) Lugar and President Bush to save the auto industry. Congressman Young has called that decision to save 100,000 Hoosier jobs ‘a waste’ and called to let the industry go ‘belly up.'”

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