Donnelly votes panned

November 2, 2018 GMT

Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina came to Fort Wayne on Thursday to bash Democrats : Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly in particular : for opposing President Donald Trump’s agenda.

“You know why you’re here tonight? Elections do matter. You’re pissed that your senator, Joe Donnelly, doesn’t recognize that Trump won,” Graham told more than 500 people attending the Allen County Republican Party’s Reagan Bean Dinner.

“When you come to that fork in the road, as all politicians do, between your interests and those that you represent, every time Joe has taken the left fork, not the Indiana lane,” Graham said at the Ramada Fort Wayne Hotel & Conference Center.

He blasted Donnelly and Democrats for voting against tax cuts and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and for supporting former President Barack Obama’s multination Iran nuclear agreement.

“Joe Donnelly is in a box of his own making,” Graham said. “He’s aligned himself financially and otherwise with people who don’t want to recognize President Trump is president of the United States. And every time he has to choose between them and you, you’re on the receiving end. Let’s end this madness. Let’s send Mike Braun to the United States Senate.” 

Braun, a business owner and former state lawmaker from Jasper, is Donnelly’s Republican challenger in Tuesday’s midterm election. Their race is among several close contests that will determine which party runs the Senate, now narrowly controlled by the GOP.

Graham’s comments about Donnelly were similar to remarks he made at an earlier news conference. Asked to respond, Donnelly campaign spokesman Will Baskin-Gerwitz said in an email: “As the most bipartisan senator of the past 25 years still serving in office, Joe will work with anyone on legislation that’s good for our state. That’s why he and Senator Graham have worked together on multiple issues crucial to Hoosiers, including bipartisan negotiations last year to stabilize the health care system that Rep. Braun would have opposed. Indeed, Joe has partnered with Senator Graham on more bills than Rep. Braun ever will : a lesson both men who spoke tonight will learn again when Joe wins on Tuesday.”

Graham said at the dinner: “I like Joe. I’m not here because I’m mad at him, the person. I’ve just had it with the way they play the game.”

Braun told the crowd that thanks to Trump and the Republican candidates he has inspired, including himself, “We may have what it’s going to take to make this a revolution that goes beyond just a small opportunity. If we don’t get it right, we’re going to be out on the street for a long time, because the other side of the ledger has demographics on its side, and they’ve got the easy discussion of more government.”

He added: “I can’t wait to be a reinforcement for an agenda that’s working, and my opponent on the other hand uses the main reason that he should be in business is because he’s ‘the hired help.’ I think you’ve got to have a little bit higher standard than that.” Braun urged voters to make Donnelly “the fired help.”

At the earlier news conference, Graham said about Democrats: “They’re getting more radical, not less. And if this is not bottom, in terms of Kavanaugh, God help us all. They’ll never stop this until they lose. They just want power way too much.”

Graham seemed to galvanize Republican support for Kavanaugh by expressing indignation at Democrats’ questions during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in September on accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, who later was confirmed by the full Senate. 

Democrats “have to pay a price for what they’ve been doing and what they will do,” Graham said Thursday.

The Journal Gazette asked Graham why both parties are running campaigns based on the politics of fear : Republicans claiming Democrats want to let a caravan of Central Americans invade the U.S. and Democrats accusing Republicans of wanting to take away people’s health insurance : instead of “the good old days when parties had positive messages.”

Graham replied: “There’s never been the good old days. You go back and look at campaigns and it’s sort of been this way, but it is exceedingly bad here.” He said that “there has to be a pushback” by Republicans on the immigrant caravan in Mexico and Democrats’ attempted “destruction” of Kavanaugh.

“The rhetoric is hot,” Graham said. “Trump can do no right by some and do no wrong by others, and when this election is over, I think the deals : the wall for DACA : there are deals to be had.”

Republicans seek to build a wall along the southern U.S. border to suppress illegal immigration, while Democrats favor bolstering Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects from deportation the children of undocumented immigrants.

Graham tweeted Tuesday that he will introduce legislation to end birthright citizenship, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, after Trump said he would try to do so through executive order.

“But if you don’t fix the incentives for future illegal immigration, you’re going to get more of it,” Graham said Thursday at the news conference. “There’s nothing wrong with us trying to change our laws to make sure we don’t have 11 million (illegal immigrants) 20 years from now. What’s wrong with us is to play like it’s not a problem when it is.

“I’m going to pursue a solution, and I don’t do it with animosity in my heart toward anybody,” he said. “I’m trying to stop what I think is a bad problem that will only stop when we address the problems. And one of the problems is, we have crazy laws in this country that actually incentivize people to cheat. And those laws need to change.”