IN Focus: GOP works to unite party after divisive primary

INDIANAPOLIS – Businessman and former state lawmaker Mike Braun said he received a flurry of phone calls after winning Tuesday's primary, including from President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Associated Press called the race for Braun Tuesday evening, beating two well-established Republican congressmen, Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Braun, who will face Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in November, said Tuesday night’s call was his first conversation with President Trump.

“It was interesting,” Braun said in an interview with FOX59. “It was along the lines of ‘great job, you took on a couple pros and showed you could lay out a game plan and execute it. We were watching and we are going to campaign the dickens out of Indiana."

Donnelly, who is facing his first re-election bid, talked with reporters Wednesday morning, hours after the results were called.

“I don’t worry about incumbent or non-incumbent,” he said.

Donnelly is one of ten Democratic senators facing re-election in states President Trump won in 2016.

“2018 is really the first opportunity for most of the states to have a referendum on Trump,” said Mike Murphy, a former GOP state lawmaker and IN Focus panelist.

Both Donnelly and Braun said Wednesday said they would aim for a campaign focused on issues but acknowledged the overall campaign will be hard-fought.

“I’ve never been afraid of a fight,” Donnelly said. “I’m fifth of five in an Irish family, and you don’t eat dinner if you weren’t ready to scrap and get going when you got to the table. If somebody wants to take a swing at me, I’ll be right there to fight back.”

Braun attended a rally in Elkhart Thursday with President Trump and Vice President Pence, who urged Republicans to unify and rally around Braun in this year's Senate race.

Rokita also attended the rally, but Messer did not make the trip, prompting Democrats to claim the GOP was still fractured.

“The biggest takeaway from (Thursday night's rally) – not even President Trump can heal the wounds of the nastiest race in politics,” said Michael Feldman, spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party. “Hoosier Republicans were counting on last night to be a ‘unity rally,’ which just made the shadow that was cast from Virginia to Elkhart all the more glaring. Congressman Messer’s absence made clear how hard it will be for Rep. Braun to move past his brutal, damaging primary when he’ll have to spend much of the year stitching his broken party back together.”