Indiana's Democratic senator faces uphill re-election battle in Trump country

Winning re-election as a Democrat in a state President Trump won in 2016 is a math problem for Sen. Joe Donnelly, R-Ind.

“My voting record is: I voted 62 percent with Donald Trump,” Donnelly said.

That’s a failing grade in this state Trump carried by nearly 20 points, according to Donnelly’s Republican challenger, Mike Braun.

“On every important piece of legislation, he votes 100 percent against Donald Trump and the conservative agenda,” Braun said.

Braun leads Donnelly 45 to 43 percent, according to a new Fox News poll, and Donnelly’s willingness to work with the president is a central campaign issue.

Now Donnelly, one of 10 Democratic senators seeking re-election in a state Trump won, is now defending his “no” votes on big-ticket items like tax reform and Obamacare repeal.

“On things like trying to take away coverage from pre-existing conditions, I’ll pass,” Donnelly said. “Hoosiers don’t want a copy machine – they want a senator.”

donnelly braun

Sen. Joe Donnelly, right, one of 10 Democratic senators seeking re-election in a state Trump won, is running against businessman Mike Braun, left, a Republican.

Undecided voters at a recent Donnelly campaign in Bremen aren’t so sure.

Sid Shafer, a grain and chicken farmer who voted for President Trump but is leaning against supporting Donnelly, cites his recent record as a reason for concern.

“This is fairly much a Trump state,” Shafer said.  “And yet he don’t vote for him.”

Agricultural tariffs are tilting some other undecided farmers toward Donnelly, including another Trump voter, soybean farmer Charlie Houin.

“Eighty percent of my decision is gonna be made up on how the candidates are gonna affect agriculture and how they’re gonna support me,” Houin said.

Braun argues the tariffs are necessary to apply pressure to trading partners, and supports them as long as disagreements about imports and exports can be resolved quickly.

“Farmers tell me they’re with President Trump, they just don’t have the capacity for this to drag on,” Braun said.

Donnelly disagrees, and claims he told the president he blames him for disproportionately affecting constituents in farming communities.

“I talked to him specifically about this issue and said ‘Mr. President, there’s a better way to do this, there’s a better way to handle this where so many wonderful people who voted for you and supported you are now at risk of losing their farms,’” Donnelly said.

Braun is confident that Donnelly’s failure to work more with the Trump administration will cost the incumbent in November.

“Hoosiers still want to see the system redone,” Braun said. “And they know that if you keep sending politicians from the farm system of politics, expect the same.”

Peter Doocy is currently a Washington D.C.-based correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC).  He joined the network in 2009 as a general assignment reporter based in the New York bureau.