Five takeaways from the final Indiana Senate debate

Five takeaways from the final Indiana Senate debate

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE (D-Ind.) and his Republican opponent Mike Braun are running a tight race just one week before the midterm elections, and both used their final debate Tuesday night to double down on the central arguments of their respective campaigns.

Donnelly tried painting himself as a bipartisan senator who is able to work with President TrumpDonald TrumpJury in Jussie Smollett trial begins deliberations Pence says he'll 'evaluate' any requests from Jan. 6 panel Biden's drug overdose strategy pushes treatment for some, prison for others MORE, while Braun re-asserted himself as an “outsider” businessman who knows how to get things done in the real world.

The debate, which took place in Indianapolis, the state’s capital, focused largely on health care, immigration and the national debt.


Here are five takeaways from the final Indiana Senate debate.

Both candidates continued to tie themselves to Trump

Both Braun and Donnelly continued to associate themselves with Trump, as they did throughout the first debate.

Donnelly, a vulnerable Democrat in a state that Trump won in 2016, framed his ties to the president as proof of his bipartisan tendencies.

He repeatedly touted his support for Trump’s signature border wall and the fact that Trump tapped him to help a bipartisan group of lawmakers on creating an immigration bill.

“I was part of the group that the president asked to put legislation together,” Donnelly said. “I was one of the 10 Democrats that worked with the president on this.”

“I’ve passed 50 pieces of legislation with a Republican partner every single time and Mike can’t even name a single Democrat that he would work with,” he added later.

Braun meanwhile lavished praise on the president’s policies, including Trump’s warm relationship with Saudi Arabia, his decision to leave the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal and his anti-immigration policies.

“When it comes to foreign policy in general, do you like the new dynamic?” he asked. “I think we’ve seen something that’s different. We weren’t respected across the world [before Trump.”

Later, he said the U.S. has spent “many years of neglecting border security.”

“Thank goodness we’re finally attending to it,” Braun added.

A core of the Indiana businessman’s campaign relies on his outsider status. He said nearly a dozen times during the debate that he is ready to take on Washington because he could bring perspective from the “real world,” messaging that echoes Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Braun encouraged viewers to vote for “a guy like me that’s done it in the real world.”

Both candidates open to legislation ending birthright citizenship

Candidates across the country have struggled throughout the day to strike the right tone in response to questions about President Trump possibly ending birthright citizenship for the children of non-citizens.

Braun and Donnelly were no exception, though they both expressed an openness to reviewing legislation that would nix the law.

The moderator asked them both to answer whether they would vote to end birthright citizenship, as Trump and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell faces GOP pushback on debt deal Bottom line GOP senators introduce bill targeting Palestinian 'martyr payments' MORE (D-S.C.) proposed on Tuesday.

Donnelly responded by emphasizing he believes the issue should be taken up by Congress.

“I heard you say that Lindsey Graham is going to put legislation forward,” Donnelly said. “We have to take a look at that legislation.”

He noted that the 14th Amendment is still the law of the land.

Braun tried to pivot, spending a few minutes discussing his support for Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, but the moderator reiterated the question.


“I will wait and see what the discussion is on it,” he said finally. “It will be something I take a look at. I’m not going to say whether I support it or not.”

Donnelly ties Braun to entitlement reform

Donnelly tried tying Braun to recent comments Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — McConnell searches for debt deal votes GOP working to lock down votes on McConnell debt deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Debt limit maneuvers; Biden warns Putin MORE (R-Ky.)y made about reforming Social Security and Medicare to drive down the national debt.

Democrats have seized on these comments in their campaigns, arguing Republicans want to cut entitlements while giving tax breaks to the wealthy.

“[Braun] supports a tax cut by Mitch McConnell — $2 trillion in debt — and they’re after Social Security and Medicare now,” Donnelly said.

“Mike’s after your health care, your Social Security and your Medicare. That’s what this election is about.”

Democrats have long argued that GOP’s tax reform plan would lead to cuts to entitlements down the road.


When McConnell said in interviews earlier this month that entitlements “are the real drivers of debt,” Democrats pounced, crafting another talking point just weeks ahead of the election.

Party leaders urged Democrats to hinge on this messaging in their campaigns and warn voters that Republicans would cut entitlements should they keep both houses in the midterms.

Braun didn’t respond directly to Donnelly’s comments on entitlements, but Republicans have accused Democrats of mischaracterizing McConnell’s comments.

In McConnell’s interview with Bloomberg, McConnell said entitlement reform would be difficult under a “unified government,” meaning while Republicans control Congress and the White House.

Differing responses to Saudi Arabia

Donnelly reiterated his position that the U.S. should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia “until we figure out what’s happened” to slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month to get paperwork for his marriage and is believed to have been murdered on the scene.


“Here’s what’s clear: the Saudis murdered a journalist who’s simply trying to make sure word gets out about what goes on,” Donnelly said.

“I have said we should have a temporary halt to arm sales until we figure out what’s happened.”

But Trump has said the U.S. won’t do that and lose billions of dollars in investments.

Braun sided with Trump, saying the president came “out front early” on the issue.

“I support his leadership and the way he’ll handle the Saudis.”

However, Braun, who paints himself as a mainstream Republican, was far more lenient on Trump than Republicans in Congress who say the president needs to come down much harder on the Saudis.

Libertarian candidate touted positions outside of the mainstream

Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton touted positions outside the mainstream. However, she also garnered the heartiest laughs and pulled off some of the most memorable moments.

Recent polls have shown Brenton polling in the single-digits, which might be enough for her to play spoiler in the tight-knit race.

Brenton was quick to mention that she is a mother of 10 children, particularly when the issue of contraceptives came up.

“I have ten children,” she said after the moderator asked if the candidates support free or low-cost contraceptives.  “So the idea of contraceptives is something that I am very much interested in,” she added, to laughter from the audience.

“Are there days that I want that to be retroactive if they haven’t done the dishes?” she quipped. “Probably.”

At another point, she named herself as a survivor of sexual assault, saying the issue is personal to her, saying she also had "my Me Too moment" without elaborating.

During one particularly impassioned response, she also said “we must abolish the Federal Reserve" and called on repudiating U.S. interest payments on its federal debt.