Senator-elect Mike Braun addresses jubilant Republicans after reclaiming the seat of Richard Lugar from U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly Tuesday. (HPI Photo by Mark Curry)
Senator-elect Mike Braun addresses jubilant Republicans after reclaiming the seat of Richard Lugar from U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly Tuesday. (HPI Photo by Mark Curry)

By BRIAN A. HOWEY
and JACOB CURRY

 
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Republicans waited six years for the moment they that came on election night: Joe Donnelly's unlikely tenure as the Democratic Senator from the Hoosier State ended with an emphatic victory by his opponent Mike Braun. The GOP regained Richard Lugar's former Senate seat with a no-nonsense Jasper businessman leading the charge. 

With 70% of precincts reporting, he held a 54-42% lead over Donnelly with Libertarian Lucy Brenton at 4%. Speaking in the JW Marriott's White River Ballroom, before a crowd of jubilant supporters, Senator-elect Mike Braun came to the stage to chants of "Mike! Mike! Mike!" Braun started his speech with the same words he started his primary victory speech with: "What a journey this has been." Beside the smiling pair of Gov. Eric Holcomb and U.S. Sen. Todd Young, Braun began by talking about how he had come to know Hoosiers across the state and promised them "I will not let you down."

Braun’s victory going away capped a stunning election in Vice President Pence’s home state. Braun credited President Trump’s willingness to campaign for him four times. “It was a huge impact,” Braun said. “Hoosiers like the fact that there’s a new agenda in D.C.”  With Donnelly’s defeat, only Democrat U.S. Reps. Pete Visclosky and Andre Carson will hold federal seats, and the party failed to make inroads into Republican super majorities in the General Assembly. It was swept in the Statehouse constitutional races. Republicans carried seven out of nine congressional districts, including a victory in the 6th CD by Greg Pence, brother of the vice president. He was joined by 4th CD Republican Jim Baird after his upset primary victory over Braun’s brother.
 
The Democratic party has returned to its abject status that it shed in 1986 with the emergence of Evan Bayh. The future governor and senator led Indiana to four consecutive Democratic gubernatorial terms at the Statehouse, and the party regularly competed for the Indiana House and several congressional seats. But Bayh’s abrupt retirement from the U.S. Senate in 2010 began a cascading encroachment of Republicans in dozens of legacy Democratic districts.
 
Braun told electrified Republicans, “I haven’t stayed in a motel or hotel but only four or five times. People put me up. That’s the way a campaign should be. I will not let you down, I promise you.” 
 
Braun said, “Sen. Donnelly called me about 15 minutes ago. Yep. Like any competition, you fight hard, you want to win. It’s gotten way too nasty on both sides. It should be about ideas, about what you bring to the table. Both sides and their families have had to carry that burden and weight.
 
“What we need to do is to take to Washington what works in the real world. What works in Jasper, Indiana, or Warsaw, Indiana,” Braun said, adding that he wanted to bring people to “fix things in a dysfunctional system. That’s my goal.”
 
Braun described four limo rides with President Trump, who invested heavily in his campaign beginning two days after his primary win. “Trump unplugged on four rides,” Braun said with wonderment as the crowd hooted. “He asked, ‘Do you think we ought to bring Bobby Knight in your campaign?’ Promises made, promises kept.”
 
And the crowd went wild. Last Friday, Braun found himself on stage with Trump, Pence and Coach Knight for the Southport rally.
 
Donnelly addressed somber Democrats around 9:25 p.m., telling supporters that he “had the unbelievable opportunity to serve the people.” He applauded his staff, told them he would always be there for them, and added, “I’ve been filled up so much by you. We love this country so much. We need to make sure we bring this country together rather than divide it. We’re all in the same boat together. We’re all American.”

Donnelly opposed the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after allegations of sexual misconduct while in high school. Donnelly’s decision was a turning point in this race as it energized previously lethargic Republicans. Their growing voter intensity resulted in a surge of early voting and long lines today.
 
The networks reported President Trump was giddy over Donnelly’s upset, calling friends and allies. Trump made four MAGA rally appearances with Braun, including two this past week with the final coming on Election Eve in Fort Wayne. All true thousands of supporters. Vice President Pence also appeared with Braun at Southport last Friday. Trump posed the mid-terms as a “referendum” on his presidency and Braun’s upset will be seen as his opening rebuke that eventually resulted in a renewed GOP majority. Hoosiers had backed Trump with a 53% primary victory in 2016 before he carried the state by 19% over Hillary Clinton.
 
“I think the Kavanaugh effect was real,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who campaigned with Braun at the Allen County Republican bean dinner and Mishawaka last week, citing Donnelly’s decision to oppose the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. “I have never seen anything unite like Republicans did since then.” Graham added that Braun and other Senate Republicans won due to “Kavanaugh, caravan and a good economy.”
 
Donnelly and Braun raised and had spent on their behalf $91 million, with Braun taking a narrow money lead down the final stretch. Polls showed Braun leading in late October, but two network polls showed Donnelly back in front, by 7% in a Fox News Poll.
 
Braun, the blue-shirted Jasper business executive and tree farmer, has now defeated three members of Congress, a feat nearly matching that of U.S. Sen. Todd Young (who has defeated four). He ended the congressional careers of U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, spending more than $6 million of his own fortune to win with 41%, more than 10% more than the “twin” congressmen.

Democrats were on the way of J.D. Ford defeating State Sen. Mike Delph. The party also retook the majority of the U.S. House.
 
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