By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis
 
1. Fiery Donnelly’s half house
 
Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points as Nikki Haley resigns as U.N. ambassador (though she said in the Oval Office she will campaign for President Trump in 2020): U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly was fiery and aggressive  in his first debate with Republican Mike Braun and Libertarian Lucy Brenton. He defiantly said he was the “decisive vote” on Obamacare, and tried to draw cover on his vote against Justice Kavanaugh by citing “temperament” and “impartiality” issues, while saying Justice Neil Gorsuch passed this muster with a Donnelly vote in 2017. But if you’re with the Donnelly campaign, one troubling notion was the half house at the Purdue Northwest campus. The auditorium was set up for 500 people, and 200 didn’t show.
 
At this point in the campaign, we pundits look for tell-tales, both scientific and anecdotal. The students were on fall break, and the ticketed event quickly reached capacity when announced last summer. But the Purdue campus is in one of the more Democratic areas in the state, just south of Michigan City. It was just outside of Donnelly’s old congressional district. You might have expected dozens (if not hundreds) of Donnelly partisans showing up. But that didn’t happen. Also noteworthy, there were several dozen, mostly women, showing up at an anti-Kavanaugh rally in Fort Wayne Monday. But there were also 50 people who marched in a Right to Life event there on the same day.
 
2. Kavanaugh v. health care
 
While the early part of the debate centered on the Justice Kavanaugh vote, which Mike Braun hopes stirs his base into action, Joe Donnelly and the Republican also spent significant time on health care issues. Donnelly pressed Braun to denounce the Texas v. United States lawsuit  backed by Republicans that would end pre-existing condition coverage. Braun wouldn’t go there, but he also said he wouldn’t support an Obamacare replacement that didn’t include pre-existing condition coverage. The Wall Street Journal  reported that 50% of Democrat ads this cycle were about health care issues. Donnelly spokesman Will Baskin-Gerwitz told HPI that the campaign believes the Kavanaugh outrage will fade. “A month is an eternity,” he said of Republicans sustaining the Kavanaugh peg. “We still think health care will be the key issue.”
 
3. Debates sans press
 

Some other debate notes: Mike Braun skipped the post-debate press conference. Spokesman Josh Kelley said the candidate decided the “debate would speak for itself.” Joe Donnelly took up most of Braun’s 10 minutes, saying at one point, “I can’t say I’m surprised Mike Braun left and didn’t talk to you. People of the state have a right to hear the issues and have a right to hear questions about the issues.” At least the press got to attend the INSen debate. HPI wanted to cover the 2nd CD debate between Rep. Jackie Walorski and Democrat Mel Hall. But we were denied access  to the event which took place at the WSBT-TV studios. So this TV station essentially signed off on a curtailing of the press. Whew.
 
4. IMA endorses Braun
 
The Indiana Manufacturers Association endorsed Mike Braun this morning. It said in a press release: “Indiana is the most manufacturing intensive state in America. More of this state’s economy and jobs are produced by manufacturing than any other industry. More Hoosiers work in manufacturing than in any other industry. Policies that help manufacturers help Hoosiers. We have examined each candidate in the Indiana United States Senate race and have determined that Mike Braun is best suited to advance those policies in Congress.”
 
5. President Trump pumps the anti-mob
 
While Mike Braun and Sen. Donnelly debated, President Trump was ceremonially swearing in Justice Kavanaugh at the White House. “Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of political and personal destruction  based on lies and deception,” Trump said in the East Room of the White House. “What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process.” Republicans are now casting Democrats as the party of “mob rule,” hoping it stokes the “silent majority.” If Democrats want to study the playbook, remember the 2010 Tea Party out-bursts at Donnelly town halls and those of other Democrats.
 
Have a great day, folks. It’s The Atomic.