Congressman Messer’s Elkhart absence shows Indiana GOP still split by nasty primary

Snub by favored son of state party’s donor class casts doubts as to whether Rep. Braun can unite GOP and wage an effective statewide campaign

INDIANAPOLIS – Congressman Messer’s absence at last night’s rally upstaged any message of Rep. Braun’s, highlighting the deep divisions that remain within the Indiana GOP following its self-destructive campaign at an event intended to bring the party together.

President Trump, former Governor Mike Pence, and Attorney General Curtis Hill were on hand last night for what some Republicans had billed as a ‘unity rally,’ but the bigger news may have been that Congressman Messer wasn’t there. His unexplained absence was widely noticed after the end of a brutal, personal, year-long primary, described as the “nastiest race in the country” by the Washington Post, that will leave him without a job.

As the Indy Star put it:

Many Republicans had hoped all three candidates would appear at the event together to send a message of unity after the bruising primary. Messer’s decision not to attend will likely cause questions to persist about whether Indiana Republicans will coalesce behind Braun after the primary.

While Congressman Rokita may have been seen as more likely to turn down a rally invitation considering he took shots at Rep. Braun during his concession speech, Congressman Messer’s absence may ultimately cause more problems. Congressman Messer had the strong support of the Indiana GOP’s moneymen and the political class, and any bad blood that remains in his structure could cost Rep. Braun dearly. The nominee has claimed he won’t continue to self-fund and begins the general election with a minimal campaign apparatus, so he’ll need all the in-state support he can get to have a shot in November.

“The biggest takeaway from last night – not even President Trump can heal the wounds of the nastiest race in politics,” said Michael Feldman, spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party. “Hoosier Republicans were counting on last night to be a ‘unity rally,’ which just made the shadow that was cast from Virginia to Elkhart all the more glaring. Congressman Messer’s absence made clear how hard it will be for Rep. Braun to move past his brutal, damaging primary when he’ll have to spend much of the year stitching his broken party back together.”

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