IN THE NEWS: Republicans in panic mode over Rep. Braun’s lazy campaign and deeply flawed candidacy

INDIANAPOLIS – Republicans are “underwhelmed” by the lazy campaign Rep. Braun has been running and are growing increasingly “worried” that he shows no sign of turning up the gas while Joe Donnelly continues to outpace him on the campaign trail, the Associated Press reported this morning.

The AP’s story this morning emphasizes that Rep. Braun’s lazy and deeply flawed campaign is causing concern among GOP operatives and Republican leaders who worry that Joe Donnelly is both out working him on the campaign trail, and outspending him on the airwaves. As the AP notes, Rep. Braun’s scheduled campaign events are few and far between, and his alleged 80 campaign events he’s held since announcing his candidacy pales in comparison to the more than 190 campaign event Joe has done since May alone while commuting back and forth from D.C.

From the Associated Press: GOP frets about prospects for picking up Indiana Senate seat

…As Donnelly barnstorms the state in a used RV, it is Braun’s own sleepy campaign that’s leaving Republicans underwhelmed — and worried.

Groups that typically back GOP candidates, such as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, are sitting on the sidelines. Braun’s recent three-stop “solutions” tour — spread out across three days — was ridiculed by Democrats, who pointed to Donnelly’s seven-day, 40-stop trek in August.

And while Braun, a multimillionaire businessman, took out $6.4 million in loans to fund his primary campaign, he also publicly groused about the cost. Now, with less than two months until the election, he has yet to purchase air time for October, while Donnelly has outspent him by almost double on TV and radio since June, records show.

That’s cause for concern, according to a half-dozen GOP officials, operatives and commentators familiar with the race, most of whom spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to offer candid assessments of the contest. They say Braun appears to be coasting at a time when he ought to be investing more of his own money and rallying the base.

Conservative talk radio host Rob Kendall summed up the GOP’s worries by pointing to Braun’s recent appearance with President Donald Trump at a rally in Evansville.

“He’s in front of (thousands of) people at the Ford Center and it sounds like you’re at a funeral,” said Kendall, who is a producer and has a show on Indianapolis-based WIBC radio. “I would have been like James Brown and the Blues Brothers shouting out ‘Do You See the Light’ to the congregation. And this guy, you have to check him for a pulse.”

Republicans have viewed Donnelly’s seat as a prime pickup opportunity in a state Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016. The criticism of Braun’s performance reflects a sudden sense among the GOP that Senate contests in several states Trump carried may be tougher than expected and that control of the Republican-led chamber could be at stake — a prospect that was unthinkable just a few weeks ago.

For years, Republicans have insisted Donnelly’s 2012 victory was a fluke caused by GOP nominee Richard Mourdock’s incendiary comments about abortion and rape. Many now concede they underestimated Donnelly, who portrays himself as a conservative Democrat and often touts his votes for Trump’s priorities.

While commuting back-and-forth between Indiana and Washington, Donnelly has held more than 190 campaign events since May — more than double the number attended by Braun, who resigned from his seat in the Indiana Legislature to focus on campaigning.

Still, groups that have enthusiastically supported GOP nominees in the past are uncharacteristically absent.

In addition to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which opted against issuing an endorsement, the U.S. Chamber was mum over whether it will get involved. In 2016, the group spent at least $3.7 million backing GOP Sen. Todd Young in his race against Democrat Evan Bayh, a popular former Indiana governor and senator who previously worked for them.

Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, interviewed Braun but decided not to directly support him. Two years ago, they launched a door-knocking and phone-bank operation that helped Young win.

With November looming, his campaign has yet to ramp up TV and radio spending, records show. Meanwhile, Democratic groups and super PACs are set to spend $22 million, much of it ruthlessly attacking Braun’s business record.

They’ve seized on stories by the AP that revealed his companies racked up safety violations and were sued by employees for unfair treatment, including a worker kicked off health insurance days after he suffered a heart attack .

Democrats also labeled Braun a hypocrite for attacking Donnelly’s family business for outsourcing jobs to Mexico while using Chinese goods for his own brand of auto accessories.

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