BENJAMIN JOHNSON | STAFF WRITER • Last Tuesday, February 20, College Republicans hosted a viewing party for a typical event with some rare circumstances.
As midterm elections get heated up across the country with the beginning senatorial and house primary races, the Indiana Republican Party hosted their first formal debate between its three frontrunners to represent the Party against incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN). Amazingly, all three frontrunners on stage were Wabash College alumni.
Polling in first place prior to the debate was three-term House Representative Luke Messer ‘91 (R-IN), a brother of Phi Delta Theta and member of the football team while attending Wabash. Messer appearing to be the most moderate of the three candidates, mainly emphasized beating Donnelly in November’s election and playing defense against his other two opponents on stage.
Second in the polls prior to the debate was House Representative Todd Rokita ‘92 (R-IN), also an experienced politician and state
bureaucrat as Indiana’s attorney general and representative of Indiana’s 4th district. But despite his experience, Rokita’s campaign has framed him to be a political outsider and not an establishment Republican. Unlike Messer, Rokita has consistently leveraged President Donald Trump and his unwavering support for him as a signal of
his rejection to be a part of the Washington establishment. It has not been uncommon for the brother of Sigma Chi and former Bachelor Editor-in-Chief to wear a “Make America Great Again” hat at his campaign rallies.
Third in the polls prior to the debate was businessman Mike Braun ‘76, president and CEO of Meyers Distributing in Jasper, IN. Throughout the debate, Braun also leveraged Donald Trump to emphasize his “real-world experience” as a businessman who has hired thousands of employees. While he was previously a state legislator for Indiana, Braun, who also served as Student Body President at Wabash, consistently emphasized the point that he has not been a part of the Washington establishment, making him most qualified to fight the political elite in Washington D.C.
“It was really cool to see three Wabash men debating on stage in a fairly civil manner,” Caleb Dickey ‘21 said. “They were actually sticking to substantive policy, and that’s want people want to see in American politics.”
While all three candidates agreed on a number of issues, such as a less regulated and
more competitive healthcare system, rebuilding infrastructure, and defeating Donnelly, most candidates seemed to part ways when it came to answering questions about fiscal spending.
When asked about voting yes for a defense spending bill that would increased debt, Messer answered, “That vote was a vote for our troops, a vote for our national
security, and, frankly, a vote for this president and his policies.” Rokita, considered by many to be a deficit hawk, rebutted Messer’s claims, calling Messer’s reasoning a “false choice” and saying the bill would place a financial burden on our children and grandchildren. Braun sided with Rokita, noting, “This [spending] is systemic in DC because the people who are there.”
“I like Braun a lot. I like his ideas,” Nick Winter ‘21 said. “I’m definitely going to do more research and see who I like the most, but Braun definitely impressed me.”
As we are still months away from the primary on May 8, there will surely be more debates to come for the Republican race. But as of last week, we know it’s too close to tell who will be representing the Republican Party in Indiana’s Senatorial race come November. Whoever the representative is, he will be a Wabash man.