Bitter primaries make it difficult to unify

The candidate I supported to be the Republican Party’s nominee for U.S. Senate did not win the primary, but I will enthusiastically vote for Mike Braun this November. With that said, I have a few thoughts about the primary. Because of course I do.

Braun’s biggest ally was our “first past the post” system, which benefits the candidate who is most different from the others. Brash outsider Donald Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016 despite a Republicans voting against him. Braun is in the same situation now: A (less) brash outsider and wealthy businessman defeated two incumbent Congressman to win a divisive primary, even though a majority of Republicans voted against him. Now, to be fair, there is no Republican rebellion against Braun (more on that in a bit) and Braun has established himself as a solid conservative. The party quickly unified around Braun without the loud opposition within the party Trump faced.

That said, this was a very divisive primary. The harsh nature of the campaign looked more like a general election than a primary. The risk you run by going so overly negative in a primary is you can alienate supporters of the other candidates. That does not appear to be happening here but I would not be surprised if it had turned out that way. That applies not just to Braun, but would have applied to Rokita and Messer had they won the primary. They both went negative in a big way. It is unfortunate when the winner of a primary has to immediately woo supporters of his primary opponents after spending months savaging them.

What we need to realize is that we are all on the same team. Obviously, each campaign thinks their candidate is the best choice, and may think that the others are less qualified. I have never opposed negative ads. But unless someone is a complete moral degenerate or ideologically far out of the mainstream, Republicans need to be restrained in how we attack each other in primaries.

One of my favorite memories in politics is watching “B-1 Bob” Dornan trying to get Republicans to stop attacking each other so harshly in 1996, reminding everyone that “the target is Clinton.” That is the case here. The target is Donnelly. We had three good, solid candidates and it is critical that we get rid of Joe Donnelly this November and strengthen the Republican majority in the Senate. Republicans should not have sabotaged that effort with their vicious attacks on each other in the primary.

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