Indiana GOP candidate targets Senate rival over past Trump criticism

Indiana GOP candidate targets Senate rival over past Trump criticism
© Greg Nash

Rep. Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaLobbying world Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations House passes year-end tax package MORE is highlighting Rep. Luke MesserAllen (Luke) Lucas MesserK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Yoder, Messer land on K Street House GOP to force members to give up leadership positions if running for higher office MORE's criticism of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE during the 2016 campaign as he battles his fellow Indiana Republican ahead of a Senate primary next year.

In a minute-long ad first shared with The Hill, the Rokita campaign features several clips from past interviews where Messer made critical comments about Trump while he was still a presidential candidate.

In one TV interview from June 9, 2016, Messer asks, “I think one of the real mysteries of this fall campaign is [does] Donald Trump really have some kind of personal tick where he can’t control what he has to say?”

Another clip from the same day shows a CNN reporter asking Messer if Trump knows when to be “presidential.” The Indiana congressman responded, “He hasn’t shown it yet. That’s the reality of it.”

Messer's campaign is pushing back on the ad, arguing that he was supportive of the president during the campaign and has continued to support him.

"Luke Messer voted for Trump in the Indiana primary, voted for Trump in the general election, has stood by the President and will continue to support the President's agenda," Chasen Bullock, Messer's campaign manager, said. "Congressman Rokita is just throwing another tantrum because he's running a losing campaign."
Rokita and Messer have been in a bruising primary for months. The two have been battling over support for Trump and his agenda, which has become a litmus test for GOP candidates in the primaries. Trump won Indiana by 19 points in 2016.

The primary is scheduled for May 8. 

The Rokita ad is in response to a spot last week from Messer’s campaign where he highlights his support for the agenda of Trump and Vice President Pence, the former governor of Indiana.

Messer’s ad doesn’t mention Rokita or any of his GOP rivals and instead takes aim at Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyLobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (D-Ind.), who he accuses of blocking the president’s agenda and canceling out the vote of fellow Indiana Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess MORE (R).

“I support the Trump agenda. I’m running to replace Sen. Joe Donnelly and force the Republican majority to have a spine,” Messer says in the ad.

Former state Rep. Mike Braun is also running for the GOP nomination and has injected a substantial amount of his own money into the race, which has helped him go on the air.

Of the nearly $1.1 million he raised from July to September, Braun loaned himself $850,000. By comparison, Rokita and Messer both have about $2.4 million in their campaign accounts.

Updated at 8:52 p.m.