A brutal GOP Senate primary in Indiana

The Senate GOP primary in Indiana scheduled for May 8 and the three major candidates vying for the nomination are all in trouble.

Whoever emerges from this scrum will probably be weakened in the general election next November where incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly awaits the winner. 

Trump won Indiana in 2016 by 19 points so the Republicans targeted Donnelly's seat as a prime opportunity for a pick up. But all three major candidates, Todd Rokita, Luke Messer, and Mike Braun have been tarnished by scandals that have undercut the main themes of their campaigns.

The Hill:

Rep Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), one primary hopeful, is dealing with stories that are unraveling his campaign’s narrative that he’s the consensus choice for backers of President Trump.

Meanwhile, a new report Thursday centered on Rep. Luke Messer’s (R-Ind.) previous drunk driving arrests, complicating his “All-American” persona.

And former state Sen. Mike Braun, who fashions himself as the outsider in the race, is defending himself after a recent report showed he pushed to cut taxes and regulations on timber companies — an industry in which he himself has a significant financial stake. 

Messer is the clear front runner in a poll released in January. But the sense among experts in Indiana is that Rep. Rokita is making up ground given his strong support for Donald Trump. 

Except, Rokita jumped the gun a little and printed up yard signs that suggested he had Trump's endorsement. He doesn't. More damaging, an interview from 2016 emerged where Rokota, a Rubio backer at the time, criticized the president.

Messer has problems with  his veracity. He replaced a lawmaker killed in a drunk driving accident without disclosing his 2 DUI convictions. This hasn't sat well with some GOP leaders and Rokita has blasted him for a "sin of ommision" in not revealing the convictions.

State rep. Mike Braun is bringing up the rear in the field. He fancies himself an outsider but has been shown to be just another grasping politician.

Democrats are obviously pleased that the GOP apppears to be eating its own.

Democrats are celebrating the attacks on the GOP candidates’ narratives, pointing to the brutal primary as a boon for Donnelly.

Referring to the news cycle as “Oppo-calypse Now,” a reference to opposition research conducted by rival campaigns, Donnelly’s campaign wrote in a recent memo that the GOP “will have plenty of ammunition and negative press to throw at each other over the next month, as stories seem to be coming by the day to wreck each candidate’s narrative.” 

But the top Indiana Republican who spoke with The Hill pushed back on that idea, arguing that Republicans will have no problem competing against Donnelly in a state Trump won by 19 points in 2016. 

“The stuff is going to come out now or in October, so which do you prefer? Any rational political mind would say now,” the Republican said.

“You don’t want anything to come out in October and upset a sure thing.”

The Republican problem with Donnelly is that he is not a typical Democrat. He has voted with Trump more than 50% of the time, is pro-life, pro-gun, and opposed gay marriage until well after he was elected. He won in 2012 against Richard Mourdock by 6 points and his favorable rating is underwater.

He's vulnerable, but so far, no GOP challenger has emerged who could give him a serious run. A poll from last month shows Donnelly defeating Messer by 10 points. In deep red Indiana, Republicans should take that as a warning sign.

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