IN Focus: GOP candidates make final push in Senate primary

INDIANAPOLIS - It's been called the nation's 'nastiest' GOP primary, and now the candidates are in the final stretch ahead of Tuesday's vote.

Former state representative Mike Braun, Rep. Luke Messer and Rep. Todd Rokita are in a contentious fight to win the GOP nomination for a chance to unseat incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) this fall.

But next week's winner may exit the primary battered and bruised by a series of scathing attacks.

This past week, Braun dealt with a report citing former employees who were highly critical of his business practices.

Messer and Rokita have also endured numerous attacks and negative campaign ads, sparring with each other while also fighting back against Braun's insurgent campaign.

The candidates have also been seeking to court Indiana voters who flocked to President Trump's campaign in 2016.

Last week, Messer and other lawmakers nominated Trump for a Nobel peace prize for his handling of the situation in North Korea, while Rokita called for Robert Mueller's investigation to be shut down within a month, if no evidence of collusion was produced.

The candidates have also been seeking endorsements from Republicans across the state, with Rokita picking up the endorsement of former state party chair Jeff Cardwell, and Messer appearing Friday with House colleague Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN).

Messer has also earned the endorsement of several former state Republican party chairs, who recently co-wrote an editorial critical of Braun's record of voting in Democratic primaries.

In the video above, we hit the campaign trail with the candidates in the final days before the primary, and talk with the experts about Indiana's importance in the 2018 midterms.

“We rank as one of the most exciting and contentious races to watch,” said Dr. Laura Wilson, a political science professor at the University of Indianapolis and political analyst for FOX 59. “A lot of these attacks haven’t just been political, they’ve been personal. So whatever candidate wins, they’re going to have to coalesce the whole party around them.”

Marion County election officials updated early voting totals last week, saying early voting is up 55 percent from this time in the 2014 primary and up 67 percent from 2010.