Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) seems to have gone too far in his attempts to embrace President Trump in Rokita’s GOP primary.
Trump’s campaign has demanded that Rokita pull down lawn signs that arguably suggest that the president has endorsed him in the heated Indiana Senate primary, where fealty to Trump has become the common denominator between the three candidates.
The signs say Rokita is “Endorsed by: Trump/Pence.” In smaller letters on the next line, it makes clear who’s actually supporting him: “2016 team leaders.”
That refers to Rex Early and Tony Samuel, Trump’s 2016 state campaign chairman and vice-chairman. Both endorsed Rokita earlier this year in his race against Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) and former state legislator Mike Braun.
Samuel told TPM he got a text message from a senior Trump campaign official (he declined to say who it was) complaining about the signs, and pointed them to the Rokita campaign to hash things out.
“This is the Messer campaign concerned with our endorsement and trying to push back and putting heat on this person from the campaign who felt the pressure to text,” Samuel said. “The wording on the yard sign is consistent with our endorsement, we have every right to make endorsements as the former state chairman and vice chairman of the 2016 campaign.”
Messer has a lot of overlapping supporters with Vice President Mike Pence, and Rokita’s team believes Messer’s campaign pressured Trump’s staff into the complaints.
Trump campaign chief operating officer Michael Glassner didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the signs, and the conversation.
The AP first reported the kerfuffle, and has a photo of the yard sign here.
Rokita’s team refused to say whether it will comply and pull down the signs, or discuss the contents of the call with Trump’s team, before taking a swipe at Messer.
“The record shows that Rex Early and Tony Samuel, the chairman and vice chairman of the 2016 Trump campaign in Indiana, have endorsed Todd Rokita because he stood with President Trump while Luke Messer sided with the Never Trumpers who disdain President Trump and gave aid and comfort to Hillary Clinton,” Rokita spokesman Nathan Brand said in a statement after declining to say whether the signs would come down.
Braun’s team was quick with a swipe of its own, labeling him “Todd the fraud” in a statement.
All three candidates have raced to embrace Trump in the primary, name-checking him in ads. But Rokita has gone the furthest, donning a “Make America Great Again” hat in one of his recent ads.
The primary is May 8, and strategists say all three have a real chance at winning the right to face Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) in one of the GOP’s best chances to pick up a Senate seat this cycle.