Braun knocks off Donnelly in Indiana

GOP businessman Mike Braun has defeated Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D) in Indiana, greatly increasing the odds that Republicans will keep or extend their majority in the Senate.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE had made taking out Donnelly and several other Democratic senators his top priority, and had visited Indiana the day before the election.

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Besides Donnelly, Democratic Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (D-N.D.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' Iranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE (D-Mo.) are facing tough reelection contests, with most polls showing Heitkamp trailing her Republican challenger.

Trump was also in Missouri on Monday campaigning, and the president is expected to take credit for any Senate victories in the states he visited repeatedly.

Republicans have a 51-49 majority in the Senate, and are only worried about losing a handful of races. The victory in Indiana gives them a little more breathing room if races in Arizona and Nevada, in particular, go to Democrats.

Donnelly ran hard against liberals in his party in the final weeks of the campaign but Republicans bashed him as a loyal Democrat, who talked like a conservative in Indiana but voted with Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerIlhan Omar blasts Pete King as an 'Islamophobe' after he announces retirement: 'Good riddance' Top Senate Dem: Officials timed immigration policy around 2020 election Senate fight derails bipartisan drug pricing bills MORE (N.Y.) in Washington. 

Trump at a rally for Braun in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Monday panned Donnelly as “an extreme liberal Democrat” who’s “gone rogue on the Democrats” by declaring support for Trump’s border wall. 

“All of the sudden he’s talking about what we’ve been talking about,” Trump said. “Here’s the problem. There’s one problem. We’ll have the election tomorrow and on Wednesday he’ll be totally against us. He’ll never vote for us.”

Donnelly aired a television ad in recent weeks warning that “socialists” want “to turn health care over to the government” and that the “radical left” wants to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Democratic strategists on Monday pointed to strong turnout, especially in Marion County, as boding well for Donnelly. Early voting numbers across the state were about twice as high as they were in the 2014 and 2010 midterm elections. 

And public polls showed Donnelly with a slight lead in the weeks' run-up to Election Day. A Fox News poll from late October showed him ahead by 7 points and an NBC News/Marist poll from the same week showed him up 2 points. 

But a Senate Republican strategist on Monday cited internal polling showing Braun with a slight lead. 

A sign that Donnelly was in trouble came over the weekend, when former President Obama appeared with him at a get-out-the-vote rally in Indiana. 

Although Obama narrowly carried the state in 2008, he lost it to Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyClub for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment Pennsylvania's other election-night story This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry MORE by 10 points in 2012. The image of Donnelly and Obama standing together on stage undercut his claim to be a conservative Democrat willing to work with Trump. 

Donnelly’s vote against Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Trump rips ABC over Epstein coverage MORE became a major issue in the final weeks of the campaign and Trump focused on the Democrats’ handling of his confirmation during his rally in Fort Wayne. 

Braun slammed Donnelly for making “a grave mistake” that proved “he is more concerned with standing with his liberal Democratic leaders than standing for Hoosiers.”

Republicans painted Donnelly as profiting from outsourcing jobs for his family’s paper-supply company, dubbing him “Mexico Joe.” 

Outside groups poured more than $60 million into the race. 

Donnelly and Braun raised about the same amounts for their campaigns, $16.1 million and $17 million, respectively, according to Federal Election Commission records.  

Braun had to overcome a deficit after winning a nasty Republican primary against Reps. Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaLobbying world Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations House passes year-end tax package MORE (R-Ind.) and 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 (R-Ind.). 

Some Republican strategists in Washington criticized Braun for taking his foot off the gas after winning the primary, letting Donnelly build up a lead during the crucial start of the general election campaign. 

Republicans thought they should have beaten Donnelly in 2012 when he benefited from running against Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a tea party conservative who did not initially have the support of Senate Republican leaders in Washington. 

Mourdock stumbled when he defended restrictions on abortion and instances of rape arguing that pregnancy resulting from assault “is something that God intended.”

As a result, Donnelly was seen as something of an accidental candidate and a ripe target for defeat in 2018.