Businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun is projected to win Indiana’s Republican Senate primary and will get a crack at Sen. Joe Donnelly, one of the chamber’s most vulnerable Democrats, according to NBC News.
He is projected to emerge from a bitter three-way GOP primary that featured personal attacks and efforts by candidates to prove they most emulate President Donald Trump. Indiana voters chose a candidate who billed himself as an outsider over Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, lawmakers who tried to prove they supported Trump in Congress.
The GOP sees Indiana as one of its best opportunities to win a Democratic seat in November. Trump won the state by about 20 percentage points in 2016, giving the party confidence that it could challenge Donnelly regardless of the primary winner.
Braun, 64, cast both of his primary opponents as creatures of a corrupt Washington political establishment. He flooded the airwaves with his own money, loaning more than $5 million to his campaign and outspending both of his opponents.
Braun notably released an ad in which he carried around life-sized cutouts of Rokita and Messer, and asked people in the street to identify the congressmen. They struggled to do so.
In an ad late last month, Braun said, “I’m running because Trump paved the way.”
Braun brushed off attacks about voting in Democratic primaries until 2012, saying he did so to “weigh in” on local races in a blue area and did not vote for Democrats in state or national elections. He also faced fresh criticism recently as an Associated Press investigation found his business record may not match his campaign rhetoric.
On Tuesday night, the major parties set the stage for a bitter battle ahead.
In a statement, Senate Republicans’ campaign arm congratulated Braun and highlighted his background as a businessman. National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Chris Hansen argued the Republican’s “success in creating jobs for Hoosiers as a business owner is a stark contrast to Joe Donnelly’s history of shipping jobs to Mexico.”
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein responded to Braun’s projected win by saying he “emerges tonight badly damaged from one of the most divisive primaries in the country, where the candidates focused more on petty political attacks than on Hoosiers.” In a statement, Bergstein said Braun “will be forced to run on his record of self-dealing and using the power of the Statehouse to enrich himself.”
Since Trump became president, Donnelly has cast himself as one of the most bipartisan members of the Senate. He and other vulnerable Democrats have joined with Republicans on some votes, signaling the threat they face in opposing Trump too often.
He has voted with Trump’s positions about 55 percent of the time — the fourth-highest among current Democrats in the Senate, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Donnelly appears to have a money advantage heading into the general election. As of last month, his campaign had more than $6 million on hand, far outpacing Braun.