Republican hopefuls make their case at debate

Indiana Debate

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Three Republican hopefuls for U.S. Senate squared off at a debate Sunday evening.

Businessman Mike Braun, U.S. Rep. Luke Messer and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita met for a one-hour debate at the WISH-TV studio in Indianapolis. Each made their cases for why they’re the best candidate ahead of the May primary.

Experts say there was no clear winner. They said this debate was full of passion and that the race will be an interesting one to watch moving forward.

Topics included foreign affairs, the Second Amendment, immigration and tariffs.

“I think you saw a lot of differences between the candidates, and that was one of the things the candidates were trying to do,” said Dr. Laura Wilson, assistant professor and advisor at the University of Indianapolis. “Braun was trying to differentiate himself from Rokita and Messer, and Rokita and Messer were trying to differentiate themselves from each other.”

Braun, dressed unlike the other two candidates, focused on the point that he’s lived through many of the issues discussed during his career in business. 

“President Trump was right,” Braun said. “We do not need more career politicians in Washington. We need guys like me that have lived it in the real world.”

Messer spent his closing statements saying he’s a clear choice for voters over Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.

“If there is one thing that you remember about me tonight, I would want it to be this: that I am who I say I am,” Messer said.  

Rokita focused on decisions made in the past by his two opponents.

“It comes down to who are you going to trust,” Rokita said. “I don’t think you can trust these guys.”

As Republicans, the three candidates shared some similarities.

All three said they stand behind Trump and support the strike on Syria. 

They all raised their hands when asked to do so if they supported arming teachers in schools.

When it came to discussion of building a wall with Mexico, the candidates all agree Mexico should pay, but had they different ideas on the process.

Rokita supports sending Mexico a bill after the wall is completed and taking the costs out in trade if need be. Messer says he’d be up for using tax credits. Braun said he will support Trump if he decides to use Department of Defense funds.

And while the debate has ended, Wilson says the candidates still have a lot of work to do before the election.

“They will probably want to keep on messaging and look back on the debate,” Wilson said. “[Look to] see any questions they faltered on or things that came up as challenges and criticisms. They will want to address those because there are still a number of people who are undecided. Those are the voters that they want to impact and ultimately get their vote.”

The debate was carried live in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Evansville and Terre Haute.

The three men hope to match up against incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat.

Indiana’s primary is May 8.

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