The Indiana Senate race had been polling neck and neck, with neither Braun nor Donnelly able to establish much of a lead. The Democrat positioned himself as a centrist willing to buck his party on immigration and military spending, while Braun ran as an outsider who would come to office to help support President Trump’s agenda.
Though he was one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, Donnelly still opposed Obamacare repeal, the Republican tax law, and Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Braun’s elevation to the Senate should give Republicans another reliable vote for the next six years.
Donnelly was always considered a bit of an accidental senator, after his somewhat fluky 2012 win against a GOP candidate who said pregnancy from rape was “something God intended to happen.” He was reasonably popular with Hoosiers, who were evenly divided on whether they approved of his job performance, but Trump won Indiana by 20 points and still has a 50 percent approval rating in the state, the home of Vice President Mike Pence.
That shift ultimately proved too much for Donnelly to overcome.
Braun, a state lawmaker, made a lot of money building an auto parts empire before his election to the Indiana Senate in 2014. He campaigned on protecting gun rights and improving the economy, and adopted Trump’s “drain the swamp” slogan to build on his profile as the only candidate in his primary or general elections who hadn’t been working in Washington for the past few years.
Braun was tripped occasionally, though, by his opposition to Obamacare. Donnelly leaned hard into the law’s protections for preexisting conditions, like other centrist Democrats who were running in Trump-friendly states, and attacked Braun for the GOP’s decade-long quest to roll back the health care law. Braun claimed he also supported preexisting conditions, a common tactic for GOP candidates this year, though independent fact-checkers disputed the Republican record on the issue.
Depending on the outcome of Tuesday’s elections, Republican leaders have hinted that they might revisit Obamacare repeal in the coming years. But some of their new senators, including Braun, will have run on protecting preexisting conditions.