INDIANAPOLIS – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce officially put its backing and money behind Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.) Monday, in what’s shaping up to be a critical race for U.S. Senate.
“Indiana is in the national spotlight,” Rob Engstrom said, senior vice president and national political director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Young faces former Democratic Senator and Governor Evan Bayh in a race to replace retiring Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.).
Bayh made a surprise entry into the race this summer after Baron Hill, who won the Democratic primary, dropped out in order to allow Bayh to run.
“Our commitment to our friend Todd Young will not change,” Engstrom said. “It will only increase. This is a majority-maker race.”
The U.S. Chamber, Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Young made stops in Indianapolis, South Bend and Fort Wayne to promote the endorsements.
Engstrom, pointing to the chamber's national scorecard tracking votes in Congress, said Bayh received an “F” rating during his time in Congress, voting with the U.S. Chamber 55 percent of the time.
Contrary, Engstrom said, Young has sided with the business group 91 percent of the time.
“Hillary Clinton personally recruited Evan Bayh to run for the United State Senate,” Engstrom said at a stop in Indianapolis Monday morning.
The chamber hired Bayh in 2011 to travel nationwide and carry a message on regulatory reform.
"Look the chamber and Evan have had a good working relationship when they’re right on an issue together," Ben Ray said, communication director for Bayh's campaign. "And when the chamber’s wrong on an issue, he’s gonna stand up to them."
The business group also starting airing a statewide television ad Monday, critical of Bayh’s vote for the Affordable Care Act.
“Obviously it’s significant when you’ve got an outside group coming in to spend against you,” Ray said.
A prominent issue for Republicans to seize in key races is the potential sticker-shock to double-digit rate increases for health insurance plans on the federal marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Anthem, one of Indiana’s biggest insurers for example, will increase rates an average 29 percent in 2017, as major insurers nationwide exit the federal marketplace and leave customers with fewer options.
“He ignored the wishes of Hoosiers and cast a deciding vote for Obamacare,” Young said. “We would not have Obamacare but for Evan Bayh’s support.”
The Bayh campaign has been forced to respond to an onslaught of questions the past few weeks, including questions about Bayh’s residency, his voter registration in Indiana and whether he’s spent too much time in Washington.
“He’s in Indiana,” Ray said. “He pays taxes in Indiana. He has a home in Indiana, and he’s committed to standing up for Hoosiers.”
A Monmouth University poll released earlier this month showed Bayh leading Young 48 to 41 percent.
In key races like Indiana’s, the Affordable Care Act will be a centerpiece, and groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will work to ensure its message and candidates are front-and-center.
“Evan wants to fix the problems with Obamacare,” Ray acknowledged. “Obviously he’s been very vocal about repealing the medical devise tax. There are improvements that need to be made.”