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11/7/2018 10:38:00 AM
Braun rides red wave in Indiana to U.S. Senate seat, defeating incumbent

Scott L. Miley, Herald Bulletin CNHI Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS -- A red wave that gained momentum from President Donald Trump propelled Republican businessman Mike Braun past Joe Donnelly in Tuesday's race for a U.S. Senate seat.

Unofficial results placed Braun about 10 to 13 percentage points ahead of Democratic incumbent Donnelly in a race that drew national attention and a hefty percent of Indiana's registered voters to the polls.

Donnelly, a first-term incumbent, conceded at 9:28 p.m., less than 3 hours after polls closed in CST zones in Indiana. 

"I called Mike Braun to let him know that I'll do everything I can to make sure there's a smooth transition because that's what the people of Indiana deserve," Donnelly told supporters gathered at the Hyatt Regency in Indianapolis.

He thanked Hoosiers for the opportunity "to serve everybody across the state and to be able to try to make a difference in their lives with health care and so many good things," Donnelly added.

Libertarian Lucy Brenton, who considered herself a spoiler in the race, didn't garner enough votes to make a dent in Donnelly's deficit.

Donnelly also had to battle President Donald Trump, who stumped three times for Braun in Indiana.

But based on early results, Braun lost to Donnelly in two of three counties where Trump held rallies for Republicans. Braun lost by 2 percentage points in Allen County and by 25 percentage points in Marion County.

By 9:30 p.m. with results still coming in, Donnelly had taken eight Hoosier counties: Allen, Delaware, Hancock, Lake, Laporte, Marion, St. Joseph and Vigo.

In Madison County, more than 2,000 voters who chose other statewide Republican candidates switched to Donnelly. However, Braun still took the county with 51 percent of the vote.

Trump pitted Donnelly against a national red wave fueled by illegal immigration, the repeal of Obamacare and the controversial confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, which Donnelly voted against.

Donnelly fought Trump’s charges that Donnelly’s platform identified with the Democratic national agenda. Donnelly worked hard to keep the issues distinct to Hoosiers.

"You’ve got people who want to see the race nationalized, but that’s not what you hear Joe Donnelly talk about,” said Indiana Democratic Party Chair John Zody. “It’s about local issues. He’s talking about health care. He’s talking about veterans.” 

Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer was counting on Hoosiers who gave 57 percent of the vote to Trump in his 2016 presidential election defeat of Hillary Clinton.

The Indiana race was among 35 U.S. Senate seats up for election, including 26 held by Democrats.

At Indiana rallies, Trump zeroed in on fears of immigrant caravans heading north through Mexico. In turn, that drew media coverage.

“The coverage has driven even more public attention to immigrants and refugees,” said Jennifer Hoewe, assistant professor at the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University.

“Immigration was already a highly salient issue for this election, but the high level of coverage of these caravans is signaling to the public that they should consider how candidates feel about immigration when they make their choices at the polls,” Hoewe said.

In 2012, with a 58 percent voter turnout in Indiana, Donnelly took 50 percent of the votes in the U.S. Senate race. His opponent was then-Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who garnered 44.3 percent.

Related Stories:
• Analysis: President Trump energized votes for Braun
• COMMENTARY: With Donnelly's loss, Indiana Democrats are at rock bottom

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