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Joe Donnelly and Mike Braun. Hell of a lot of forehead in this race.


Yr Wonkette has noticed something interesting as we've been working through all 33 US Senate races this year: Seems like a hell of a lot of Democrats get listed as "one of the most vulnerable" in the field. That may just be lazy political reporting, although it's certainly true there are 10 Democratic incumbents running in states where Trump won in 2016. This week, as we look at yet another of those most endangered Dems, the label really does seem fairly apt: Indiana's Joe Donnelly is going to face a difficult fight in the home state of the vice president, where Rs think they have a pretty good chance at taking the first-term incumbent down.

Donnelly also lacks an advantage he had when he was first elected in 2012: He's not running against a complete idiot this time. You may recall that Donelly's opponent in 2012, Richard Mourdock, infamously explained his reasoning for opposing exceptions to abortion restrictions in the case of rape, because "I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happened." Mourdock, a tea party favorite who had primaried Richard Lugar out of a job, was just one of 2012's Great Republican Friends of Women, along with Todd "legitimate rape" Akin.

The winner of the May 8 Republican primary, Mike Braun, so far doesn't seem quite as obvious a loony, though lord knows the summer's just getting started and there's still plenty of time for stupid as the race progresses. Braun, a businessman and former state lawmaker, won a seriously ugly primary in which all three Republicans fought over who was the biggest fan of Donald Trump. The two guys who lost were both congressmen, Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer; Braun ran as an "outsider" who would go to Washington and bring some common sense to the whole place, because he's a businessman, and he'd like to see government run like a business. Gosh, isn't that an inventive new approach for a Republican candidate to use? Bet he'll say we need a return to good old fashioned values, too.

Oh hey, how about that business Braun runs? A week before the primary, the Associated Press reported Braun's own business, Meyer Auto Parts, a national parts distribution company, engages in practices that seem to be at odds with some of Braun's campaign rhetoric. He has complained that Washington has hurt American workers, but his company

does brisk business importing goods from the same overseas countries he has criticized for taking American jobs. He also has accepted government subsidies, despite criticizing the practice.

Gosh, he's running on an America First platform but has gotten rich off imported stuff? Sounds like he really could be as much like Trump as he claims! Mind you, his campaign spokesperson, Josh Kelley, says the company really tries to distribute American-made parts whenever possible, but the realities of international trade mean Braun simply has to rely on imports to remain profitable. You see? Also just like Trump!

Then there's Braun's deft handling of those who work for him. The AP leads its report with the story of truck driver Timothy Jackson of Oklahoma, who

was recovering from emergency heart surgery when he learned he'd lost his job — and his health insurance along with it — because managers at the company's Indiana headquarters decided he wasn't healthy enough to work.

At least his local manager broke the news in a hand-delivered letter. It's that personal touch that counts. The manager told Jackson the firing wasn't his choice because it was ordered at the head office back in Indiana. In a court filing, the company "acknowledged Jackson was fired because they doubted he could do his job."

Oh, yes and then there's this fun detail about the kind of health insurance Braun thinks would be great to expand to all Americans:

Braun often touts his companies' heath care coverage, which he re-engineered to reduce costs by requiring that employees pay more up-front. He says it provides "better coverage" while being "less paternalistic."

By "less paternalistic" he apparently means employees will be given the chance to lose their already minimal benefits if they get sick. No coddling for you, heart-surgery needer!

In other cases, Braun's company insists that drivers don't need the paternalistic hand of the company or the government getting in the way of their driving too many hours, because "adequate sleep" just makes truckers soft, paternalistically:

Another Oklahoma employee alleged in 2009 that the company withheld overtime that was paid only after he filed a formal complaint. The employee said he was fired days later in retaliation, according to court records. He settled with the company out of court.

In 2014, a West Virginia driver alleged he was forced falsify log books to conceal time spent on the road that exceeded federal regulations that limit driving time to 11 hours per day. The employee says he was fired after he refused to keep up a schedule that "demanded 16 to 18 hour days," according to court records. That lawsuit also was settled out of court.

Not paying people for overtime and cutting corners on safety? That definitely sounds like Trump all right! Wonder if Braun pays his lawyers? If we learn he's ever lobbied against basic safety regulations, the way Donald Trump fought New York on fire sprinklers in high-rise buildings, we'll really be impressed.

Oh yes, and the guy who says government shouldn't pick winners and losers by offering subsidies to businesses has happily applied for and received nearly $2 million in incentives as a job creator. The week after the primary, a Democratic super PAC was airing an ad based on the AP story:

Despite that "among the most vulnerable" label, Joe Donnelly isn't about to just roll over and give up -- he may not be a big name nationally, but he has a strong reputation in Indiana, where he tours the state in a 15-year-old Indiana-built RV and -- probably a smart move in a very red state Donald Trump won by 19 points -- has emphasized his bipartisan bona fides and his getting-things-done record. He's voted for bills and to confirm nominees Trump wants more than we'd prefer, but let's say it all together, kids: Even a less than ideal Democrat is better than virtually any Republican, and if Dems want to take the Senate back, we have to reelect the red-state incumbents. Donnelly has been a reliable vote for most Democratic issues, and his pro-choice stance certainly helped him after Mourdock's stupid comments. He voted to protect Obamacare and voted against the GOP's Big Fat Tax Cuts for Rich Fuckwads, for which he's already been taking heat. He didn't vote to transfer hundreds of billions to the already rich? He can probably make that look like a good thing, we bet.

Days after the primary, Donald Trump held a rally in Elkhart, Indiana -- supposedly about tax cuts -- where he tried to give Donnelly a new nickname, "sleepin' Joe," because... Trump's out of nicknames? Even Braun's campaign was confused -- it tweeted out "sleepy Joe" before deleting that and getting it right.

Trump also said that if Democrats take Congress, the world would basically end: they'll "raise your taxes, they will destroy your jobs, and they are going knock the hell out of your borders." You know, like how in Elkhart itself, RV factories went from huge layoffs during the 2008 recession to a comeback under Barack Obama, not that he gets any credit for Elkhart's unemployment rate going from double digits to 3 percent now, with most of that recovery under Obama.

The Indiana Senate race is likely to be among the most expensive and hard-fought this year (see, big media? We learned clichés from YOU!), and Joe Donnelly will need help to keep his seat from going to yet another Republican who thinks running America like his own corner-cutting business is the best idea ever. Send Donnelly a few bucks here, won't you? He may not be a sexy Sherrod Brown, but far more important, he's no scammy Mike Braun.

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Yr Wonkette is supported by reader donations. Please click here to help us bring you every single Senate race of 2018, plus dick jokes.

[Indianapolis Star / Vox / Indianapolis Star NYT / HuffPost / Politico / FiveThirtyEight / Joe Donnelly for US Senate]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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