GOP Senate candidate's plan to run as mini-Trump backfires in Indiana


After vying to be the Trumpiest candidate running, an Indiana Republican now trails badly.

Campaigning for a Senate seat that was supposed to be an easy pick-up for the GOP in 2016, the so-called Trumpiest candidate in the Indiana race, Rep. Todd Rokita, now finds himself trailing the incumbent Democrat by 18 points.

And it's all happening in a state that Trump won by 19 points just a year and a half ago.

A new poll from Gravis Marketing shows that Democratic incumbent, Senator Joe Donnelly, enjoys an 18-point lead over Rokita, the candidate who's spent all of 2018 trying to convince Indiana voters that he's Trump's political brother.

"Whether it’s Rokita’s campaign Humvee, his red Make America Great Again hat, the aggressive attacks on his opponents, references to 'Crooked Hillary Clinton,' or his calls to make English the nation's official language, Rokita is the candidate most emulating Trump’s brash, pugilistic style," the Indianapolis Star reported this week.

Additionally, Rokita has said that special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe is going nowhere and that, "Hillary Clinton is the real guilty party here."

Rokita's obsessive pursuit of Trump's persona — which includes campaigning with a life-size cardboard cutout of Trump — took a comical turn this week, when Rokita got scolded by Trump's re-election campaign for distributing lawn signs that might falsely give the impression he was endorsed by Trump and Pence. In reality, Rokita was "endorsed" in by two volunteers from the 2016 Trump-Pence campaign in Indiana.

(Perhaps the Trump re-election campaign noticed a recently surfaced interview revealing just how much Rokita preferred Marco Rubio over Trump just two short years ago.)

So what has all the recent Trump adulation gotten Rokita? The support of just 32 percent of Indiana voters in a possible showdown with Donnelly. The taint of Trump seems to be taking a political toll, even in Indiana, the home state of Trump's vice president, Mike Pence.

Heading into the midterm election year, Republicans, and many election observers, saw Donnelly's Senate seat as one for the taking.

Not only does Indiana have a long history of voting Republicans, but Donnelly won the seat in 2012 thanks in large part because his GOP opponent, Richard Mourdoch, torpedoed his own campaign by claiming that any woman who gets pregnant by her rapist is carrying a “gift from God” and thus must have the child.

That bizarre rhetoric doomed the GOP in Indiana in 2012. Will chasing Trump's shadow in 2018 do the same?