GOP Senate Candidates Set For First Debate

Feb 19, 2018

U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, and former state Rep. Mike Braun participate in a straw poll in January.
Credit Tyler Lake / WTIU

Indiana’s three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate – former state Rep. Mike Braun, U.S.Rep. Luke Messer (R-Shelbyville), and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg) – will meet this week in the campaign’s first debate in the lead up to May’s primary.

The GOP primary’s tone has been described by some as nasty and rancorous. University of Indianapolis political science professor Laura Merrifield Wilson says that’s unlikely to change in the debate.

“You can’t redeem yourself; you can’t change that afterwards," Wilson says. "I would be surprised if they were being perfectly collegial.”

Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics Director Andrew Downs says the debate is as much about what candidates have to lose as gain.

“They are an opportunity for mistakes more often than for moving ahead because of a really positive performance,” Downs says.

Downs and Wilson say the debate lets candidates introduce themselves to Republican voters – which Wilson says is important for those who are undecided.

“It will play a long way in terms of how they feel about the candidates and I think you would see some people that will have already started to make up their mind,” Wilson says.

The debate is sponsored by a partisan group, Americans for Prosperity-Indiana.