INDIANAPOLIS – Hoosiers received another reminder yesterday that Indiana has the “GOP’s nastiest Senate primary” when they tuned into the Koch brothers-sponsored debate. All three GOP candidates spent their time reheating old personal attacks against each other or racing to the right in an attempt to win over the Kochs’ support.
When candidates did agree, it was for disastrous proposals like gutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, or Congressman Rokita’s and Rep. Braun’s full-throated support for cutting funding for our troops and shutting down the government. The only positive moment for Hoosier voters? The strong endorsement all three candidates gave to Joe Donnelly’s Right-to-Try Act, which Joe introduced and this summer got passed out of the Senate.
From the Indy Star: 7 key takeaways from Indiana’s GOP Senate debate
…4. Democrats pounce on GOP comments on Social Security, Medicare
A question that undoubtedly pleased Democrats was what the candidates would do to reduce federal spending. Asked to name two specific cuts, Braun went with a general across-the-board freeze. But Rokita and Messer said spending is being driven by the the [sic] major social safety net programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
The Indiana Democratic Party immediately tweeted that the GOP candidates are calling for cuts to the programs.
Democrats are already running ads in Indiana accusing Republicans of having a plan “to cut Medicare for seniors.”
When asked how they would cut down on government spending, each man had trouble at first answering the question, according to Katz, who asked again.
Braun said he would not want to eliminate individual items, but was only in favor of across the board cuts. He said he was not into the deal making of the budget process.
Messer said he believes it’s time to klet [sic] the states have a chunk of money for Medicaid and a chunk for food stamps, and let the states administer the programs “more efficiently”.
“It was really an attempt to try and outflank each other on the right, while trying to win over the Koch Brothers and their donors,” said Michael Feldman, representing the Indiana Democratic Party, who staged a protest in front of the building.
“All three candidates came out in favor of cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. Hard working Hoosiers who have paid into this their entire lives and expect it to be there for them, will remember that in November,” said Feldman.
Standing by for this back-and-forth was Braun. When asked how he would have voted on the budget deal, he said he liked how Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul described the deal. Rokita jumped in, accusing him of being just another politician who couldn’t give a straight answer.
Braun has been under attack for voting for a gas tax increase in the state legislature. He explained on Tuesday how constituents told him to “fix the roads,” but said he’s vowed to never support a tax increase at the federal level.
Rokita then delivered a one-liner that may please Democrats. “If you nominate one of these two, Joe Donnelly will be the tax cutter in the race,” the congressman said.
Rokita echoed that sentiment in his closing remarks, telling the crowd: “There’s only one contender up here, and two pretenders. … Joe Donnelly is going to eat them alive with the vulnerabilities.”
“Outside of their full-throated endorsement of Joe Donnelly’s Right-to-Try Act, we only got the same personal attacks and mudslinging that made this the ‘nastiest race in politics’ months ago,” Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said, alluding to legislation Donnelly sponsored with Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson giving terminally ill patients access to investigative drug treatments.
“Maybe the Koch brothers found someone tonight with the right mix of far-right policies and a potentially salvageable campaign, but the only winner for Hoosiers is the bipartisanship and common sense of Joe Donnelly,” Zody added.
From Howey Politics: Horse Race: Contrasts emerge in first GOP Senate debate
The trio had spikes out with U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita taking aim at businessman Mike Braun, who he has called “tax hike Mike.” He chided U.S. Rep. Luke Messer for voting for a budget bill that will supercharge the federal budget deficit to an estimated $1.5 trillion. “It’s the choice our commander-in-chief gave us,” Messer said of President Trump. “He could be no clearer.” Then pivoted back to Rokita, who portrayed himself as the lone Trump supporter from the beginning of his campaign. “You can’t run around and say you support the president and then not support him,” Messer said
Messer characterized the budget vote as a decision to fund the U.S. military, with Rokita retorting, “It’s a false choice.”
Rokita added, “If you nominate one of these two, Joe Donnelly will be the tax cutter in the race.”
As Rokita and Braun trade shots on HEA1002, Messer quipped, “You know who loves this discussion the most? Joe Donnelly.”