In past U.S. Senate races in Indiana, the emphasis in the campaign homestretch is mostly concentrated on domestic or foreign policy. We’ve watched the debate in races going back to 2010 center on issues like deficits and debt, Obamacare, our alliance with Israel, military strength, or tax reform.
The battle between U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and Republican Mike Braun this time has strangely focused on their personal business interests, with most of the dirty work coming from super PACs that operate independently and are cloaked from the actual campaigns. If you’ve watched any TV lately, you’ve heard about “Mexico Joe” shipping jobs south of the border and Braun, whose company is selling auto parts imported from China.
Here’s how this works: The campaigns and special interests do thorough opposition research. This extends to everything from personal taxes and financial disclosures, to legal items like divorce, domestic confrontations, DUIs, and bankruptcy (which neither candidate has dealt with), personal resumes like college degrees, congressional and General Assembly voting records, political contributions, residency and business practices.
In 2010, the residency issue was used unsuccessfully against Republican Dan Coats who moved back to Indiana to run, quickly buying a home here, and in 2012, it played a crucial role in the Republican primary defeat of U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, who lived in Virginia, though he owned a tree farm in Indianapolis.
Campaigns and PACs comb through the research, find their silver bullets, and will often approach reporters. For instance, in the 2016 Senate primary between Republican Reps. […]