Indiana Senate Seat Flips Red As Braun Beats Donnelly

GREENWOOD, IN - NOVEMBER 03: Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun looks on during a campaign stop on November 3, 2018 in Greenwood, Indiana. Braun is locked in a tight race with incumbent Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images North America

Businessman Mike Braun (R) has defeated Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), flipping a seat for Republicans in a red state Democrats were fighting hard to maintain.

Braun led Donnelly 54 percent to 42 percent with 50 percent of precincts reporting. Multiple networks have called the race.

Braun’s victory in the red state makes him the first Republican of the evening to cement a win, and comes after a bruising election in which he and Donnelly accused one another of getting rich on outsourcing and sparred over policy.

Braun and his allies blasted away at the senator for recently owning stock in a company owned by his brother that produced some of its products in Mexico, while Donnelly and Democrats hammered Braun for importing many products from China in his auto parts distribution business.

Braun also went hard after Donnelly for his splits with President Trump and support for President Obama, from his opposition to the GOP’s tax plan and vote against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, to his support for the Iran nuclear deal. Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the state’s former governor, were frequent presences on the campaign trail for Braun in the race’s homestretch.

Donnelly, like red-state Democrats across the country, went hard on offense on Obamacare. He attacked Braun for supporting the GOP’s push to repeal the health care law, including its protections for pre-existing conditions. And he aggressively highlighted the high deductibles in the healthcare plans Braun’s companies provided to his employees.

One of the Senate’s most moderate Democrats, Donnelly also sought to broadcast his independence. In ads in the race’s closing weeks, he touted his support for Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, slammed the “radical left,” and quoted both Trump and Ronald Reagan.

Donnelly stuck in the race until the very end to the surprise of Republicans who thought he’d only won in 2012 because of their own flawed candidate.

Donnelly had held a slight lead in public and private polls through most of election. But the divisive fight over Kavanaugh helped energize Republicans, and his vote against confirming the judge to the Supreme Court likely hurt him with the conservative-leaning independents and moderate Republicans he needed for a winning coalition.

The partisan tilt of the state and the deep polarization President Trump pushed was too much for him to survive in a state the President won by 19 points two years ago.

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