Republican primary races are relatively tame this time of year. The Indiana Senate primary is not. With six candidates pushing and shoving their way to the front, it is quickly becoming the most brutal this cycle. That’s due in part to Rep. Todd Rokita. Consider his two latest tactics.
When Mike Braun came to the Indiana State House to officially enter the race on Wednesday, two interns from the Rokita campaign dressed as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton stalked the millionaire businessman. That's because, before running as a Republican, the AP reports, Braun voted in Democratic primaries until 2012.
@ToddRokitaIN couldn't help himself. These guys followed Mike Braun around the Statehouse after he filed Senate candidacy papers. Braun regularly pulled Democratic primary ballots until 2012. pic.twitter.com/iQq8w9VPrz— Brian Slodysko (@BrianSlodysko) January 31, 2018
“With a history of voting for Democrats for two decades, and record of raising 45 taxes and fees, including the largest in state history,” said Rokita campaign spokesman Nathan Brand in a statement, “Tax Hike Mike Braun will spend the next three months attempting to disguise a record that is more in line with Washington liberals than Hoosier conservatives."
During a sit-down interview last December, Braun told me he only voted in Democrat primaries in order to have a say in local government. Note that anyone can vote in either primary – there is no party registration in Indiana. Though plausible, this explanation is not as entertaining as the Rokita attack.
Another competitor, Rep. Luke Messer, got similar treatment. A third Rokita intern dressed as a giant milk carton with a picture of a missing Messer on the front. The residency of that congressman, the AP reports, has proved an ongoing obstacle.
Welcomed @LukeMesserIN back to Indiana... He's about about 9 hours and 600 miles away from his home in the DC area. #INsen pic.twitter.com/JY4mS1dgB1— Nate Brand (@NateRBrand) January 31, 2018
"Luke Messer is Evan Bayh, but without the well-known name,” Brand wrote, referencing the Indiana Democrat who lost to Sen. Todd Young in 2016 in part because of residency issues. “His decision to sell his Indiana home and move in with the DC elite will continue to haunt his Senate campaign.”
During another sit-down interview last December, Messer told me he splits his time between Virginia and Indiana. The move was necessary to meet his obligations as both a father and as the fifth-ranking House Republican. Again, and like Braun, that explanation make sense, but it’s not as eye-catching as the Rokita attack.
Voters always complain about negative campaigning. The Rokita campaign is betting they won’t mind some trolling. In May, when voters come out for the primary, we will find out.