INDIANAPOLIS – The Republican Senate primary reached new levels of aggression yesterday as the two highest-profile candidates unleashed their most personal attacks yet, even though neither one has even declared for the race.
Congressman Rokita spent the weekend on the offensive against likely Republican primary opponent Congressman Messer, needling him over his fundraising lead in the most recent quarter. When he then took more aggressive shots on an IN Focus interview Sunday morning, saying that he didn’t “have the baggage that Luke Messer does,” Congressman Messer’s campaign responded.
In a lengthy open letter to supporters titled “I’m tired of Todd Rokita lying about my family,” Congressman Messer hit back aggressively and claimed that “for months, Todd Rokita has spread lies and half-truths about my family” and that Congressman Rokita “will do and say almost anything to advance his political career.”
But with the spotlight firmly on the two men, Congressman Rokita’s campaign hit back with his most vitriolic language yet, saying in a statement from his spokesman that Congressman Messer is “unhinged” and “a ticking time bomb,” and asking his audience to “imagine how Messer will fly off the handle” when attacks increase in the 15 months that remain before the general election.
The week’s exchanges between these two congressional colleagues have been the most explosive to date, but this is far from their first skirmish. Both men have already complained about negative stories about each other in the press, while Congressman Rokita has publicly tried to stop Congressman Messer from entering the race. With little in terms of policy or fundraising to separate themselves, the two will likely continue relying on personal attacks to differentiate each other.
“There are still 10 months to go before Republicans have a nominee, but thanks to the scorched earth tactics from Congressmen Messer and Rokita even before either has formally entered the race, it’s clear that this will be the most combative, self-destructive primary in the country,” said Will Baskin-Gerwitz, Senior Media Strategist for the Indiana Democratic Party. “Hoosiers want a senator who will listen to them, reach across the aisle, and deliver results—not just someone who can survive a year-long mudfight.”