Republican businessman Mike Braun defeated Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) on Tuesday in a major pickup for President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans.
Trump won Indiana by 20 points in the 2016 presidential election, and Braun, a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives, ran as a Trump loyalist. The president visited Indiana twice during the final week of the 2018 campaign, and Vice President Mike Pence, a former governor of Indiana, also stumped for Braun. Donnelly was one of 10 Senate Democrats running for re-election this year in a state that Trump won.
Braun, a former Democrat, was able to successfully tie Donnelly to national Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Donnelly had tried to brand himself as an independent thinker, often distancing himself from his own party and touting the fact that he has voted with Trump more than 60 percent of the time. But that wasn’t enough to win statewide in a red state.
Donnelly has voted against some of the key legislative measures that Braun and Trump were highlighting on the campaign trail, most notably the Republican tax-cuts bill last year. Donnelly was one of just three Democrats who voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court last year, but he opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, joining all Senate Democrats but one.
Braun’s victory indicates that the “Kavanaugh bump”—the sudden unification among Republicans and conservatives last month after Kavanaugh was accused of sexual misconduct and ultimately confirmed to the Supreme Court—was at least somewhat real. Strategists were unsure whether it would last, but Braun and his campaign attacked Donnelly during the final days of the campaign for voting “no” on the nomination.