INDIANAPOLIS — Partisan control of the U.S. Senate, and the outcome of innumerable national policy decisions and judicial nominations, could well be determined for the next two years by who is elected Nov. 6 in Indiana.
Three candidates are vying to represent the Hoosier State in what currently is a 51-49, Republican-controlled Senate: Incumbent U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat; former state Rep. Mike Braun, a Republican; and Libertarian Lucy Brenton.
In television ads, Donnelly, Braun and their interest group allies largely have focused on foreign trade, with Braun and Donnelly each labeled "un-American" for owning or investing in companies that reportedly source products from either China or Mexico.
But beyond the darkened TV images and ominous voice-overs, Donnelly is asking Hoosiers for their votes based on his "bipartisan" and "common sense" record in the Senate, while Braun is touting his business experience and loyalty to GOP President Donald Trump.
Donnelly, indeed, lives up to his bipartisan billing. According to a think tank led by former U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., Donnelly last year ranked fourth out of the 100 senators for working across party lines to advance legislation.
That includes supporting 62 percent of Trump agenda items in the Senate, according to Donnelly's campaign.
Though the Democrat did oppose Trump's tax cut legislation that has since exploded the federal deficit, and recently voted against the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh after supporting Trump's first nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch.
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"I don't work for any president," Donnelly said in explaining his voting record. "I didn’t work for President Bush or President Obama, or President Trump; I work for the people of Indiana."
Braun, on the other hand, has pledged to back Trump's entire agenda, including repealing the Affordable Care Act and funding construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, a pledge that has brought Trump multiple times to Indiana for rallies on Braun's behalf.
His campaign is highlighting Braun's experience as the owner of Jasper auto parts distribution company.
Braun said if elected he will, like Trump, take a businessman's approach to government by cutting taxes, eliminating regulations, supporting conservative judges, restricting immigration and enacting a balanced budget constitutional amendment.
"In building my business I've jumped over just about every hurdle Washington can put in your path; in the Senate, I'll use that experience to help Hoosier businesses thrive," Braun said.
Public opinion polls show Donnelly and Braun are statistically tied heading into Tuesday's final Senate debate.
The election winner ultimately could be decided by which candidate loses fewer backers to Libertarian Brenton, whose anti-abortion, pro-gun, pro-marijuana and pro-gay rights agenda has the potential to lure voters from all sides of the political spectrum.