The Democrat Party’s hope for taking over Congress, specifically the U.S. Senate, took a couple body blows last night. The first came in West Virginia where they had hoped Republicans would nominate weirdo candidate Don Blankenship. By a wide margin, it didn’t happen.
But the other hit came in Indiana where a brutal Republican primary saw political outsider and successful businessman Mike Braun upset two sitting Republican Congressmen, Todd Rokita and Luke Messer. All three men ran as conservatives supporting President Trump’s legislative agenda, but only Braun had the benefit of the anti-establishment label.
And that’s what spells trouble for Democrats. Incumbent Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly is not nearly as formidable as it might seem for someone who has been a fixture in DC for 12 years. In fact, his lengthy tenure in Washington has been a series of fortunate breaks, beginning with a notoriously gerrymandered district that kept him in the House of Representatives for 6 years.
When the district lines were redrawn to be more politically balanced, Donnelly was certain to lose to current Congresswoman Jackie Walorski. So he bailed. And to save face and perhaps a political future, he accepted the roll as sacrificial lamb of his party to face Indiana’s legendary Senate titan Richard Lugar in 2012. But that year, the Tea Party toppled Lugar in a shocking primary contest against Richard Mourdock. In the general election, Donnelly’s classless exploitation of Mourdock’s singular gaffe during a debate helped propel him into the improbable victory where he has been for the last six years.
The ability to run against an entrenched Washington Congressman with a long voting record to spin was what the Donnelly campaign was certainly anticipating. Now, they get something completely different. State political watchers think it spells trouble for Donnelly:
There certainly won't be panic in the Donnelly camp. The senator and his team are much too experienced for that. But there should be concern.
After all, in the most recent statewide election — only two years ago — Trump won Indiana by 19 percentage points. Todd Young knocked off an Indiana political legend, Evan Bayh, by nearly 10 points for an open Senate seat.
In Braun, Donnelly faces a more difficult match-up than he would have encountered with either Messer or Rokita. Braun has shown that he's a disciplined communicator who wears the outsider image well. And he definitely won't shy from a fight.
Thursday, both President Trump and Vice President Pence will be in the state to stump for Braun’s candidacy. With deep pockets, no voting record, party support, a right-leaning, Trump-supporting state, and the benefit of being the outsider taking on an inner-DC fixture for over a decade, Republican Mike Braun is in good shape heading into November.
Flipping that seat from Democrat to Republican probably means any hope of elevating Chuck Schumer into Senate Majority Leader is history.