By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis
1. Braun posts $2.5M for Q2
Here are your Thursday power lunch talking points: Money continues to spill into the INSen race. Republican nominee Mike Braun posted $2.5M with more than $1M cash on hand. The campaign says it raised $1.5M since the Jasper businessman’s primary romp over U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita. The campaign notes that the totals are “without personal contributions or loans.”  Leading into the primary, Braun pumped more than $6 million of his own fortune into the race, which Howey Politics Indiana  believes will top $100 million by November, with millions of Super PAC and independent expenditures flooding in by then. Braun's report comes after a SurveyMonkey Poll showed him leading Sen. Joe Donnelly 49-47%.
Braun said, “We've had such an incredible groundswell of support from folks who believe in me and my positive message for Hoosiers, and I’m thrilled to see that momentum reflected in what we’ve done here. One and a half million dollars in less than two months is no easy feat, and I'm honored to see our party fully unified behind retiring Senator Donnelly this November." Donnelly, who up until this point in the cycle had always been the early bird reporter, hasn’t released Q2 numbers. We couldn’t get anyone from the campaign to respond this morning. Stay tuned.
2. Trump threatens NATO pullout
President Trump thrust NATO leaders into what was described as an “emergency meeting”  after he threatened a U.S. pullout of the alliance it created after World War II as a hedge against the Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union. Both the Washington Post  and NBC  reported the threat. When Trump was asked at a news conference this morning if he had threatened to pull out of NATO and if he could do so without Congress’ approval, he replied, “I think I probably can, but that’s unnecessary and the people have stepped up today like they’ve never stepped up before.” Trump also said the leaders agreed to up spending to 4% of GDP, the French President Macron said there was no such agreement, and CNN’s  Christiane Amanpour tried to get NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to confirm the 4% but couldn’t get a yes or no answer.
3. Prelude to Putin meeting
The NATO threats and turmoil is a prelude to his meeting with Russian President Putin next Monday in Helsinki. The fact that President Trump is meeting Putin mano-y-mano is unnerving allies and leaving Trump open to speculation  that he is either: 1. an authoritarian wannabe; or 2. a Putin asset now embedded in the White House. Asked about Putin this morning in Brussels, Trump said, “Well he’s a competitor. He’s been very nice to me  the times that I met him. I’ve been nice to him. He’s a competitor. Somebody was saying is he an enemy? No, he’s not my enemy. Is he a friend? No, I don’t know him well enough. But the couple of times that I’ve gotten to meet him, we got along very well.” Asked if he would recognize the annexed Crimea as part of Russia, Trump said, “Well that's an interesting question because long before I got here, President Obama allowed that to happen. Would I have allowed it to happen? No. I would not have allowed it to happen. What will happen with Crimea from this point on, that I can't tell you, but I'm not happy about Crimea.”
4. Soybean prices hit 10-year low
Soybean prices sagged to a 10-year low, sliding to $8.55 a bushel, a 13% decline since January. Most of the decline occurred since President Trump set in motion a 25% tariff on $34 billion of Chinese goods, prompting a retaliation and a Chinese shift to Brazilian imports. Some believe crop insurance will mitigate the damage to farmers, but Hoosier Ag Today’s  Gary Truitt, reports: “Farmers can expect little help from crop insurance or from the government safety net.” Truitt quotes Purdue economist Chris Hurt: "It looks like at 90%, coverage on corn with average yields crop insurance would begin to protect below $3.60 December futures. But that would only be for those who had extremely high levels of coverage." As for soybeans, which have seen prices fall over $1.50 a bushel in the past few weeks, Hurt says, "At $10.16 futures with 85% coverage, protection would start at $8.65 with normal yields."
5. Pence reassures Iowa farmers
Vice President Pence, a former free-trader, was in Iowa Wednesday, trying to reassure anxious farmers there. "When it comes to agriculture, I just want to assure all my friends here in Iowa and all across the region: Under President Trump’s leadership, we’re always going to stand with American farmers," Pence said in Cedar Rapids. Pence promised President Trump will continue to "drive forward in a way that puts American farmers first and develop new deals that work for them … in the long term." Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said he’s been peppered with tariff question at 10 recent meetings with farmers. “They … know that if the president doesn’t get a better deal for the United States and his brinkmanship takes us over the brink, then it’s going to be catastrophic." Grassley said that if farmers lose money, they will "probably blame the president for it."
Thanks for reading, folks. We appreciate your faith in our reporting. It’s The Atomic!