Indiana Senate hopeful hits primary opponent as anti-Trump

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This story first appeared in The Hill.

Indiana GOP Senate hopeful Rep. Todd Rokita is out with a new digital ad campaign accusing his primary opponent of being weak on President Trump.

The new ad, which highlights critical comments about the president largely made by Rep. Luke Messer's (R-Ind.) allies, is the latest salvo in Rokita's push to frame himself as the pro-Trump candidate in the primary race.

Rokita's digital spot tries to equate Messer with anti-Trump "Washington liberals" by pointing to an April 2016 article in The Hill where Messer mentioned two potential "white knight" candidates who could unify a potentially divided Republican convention if Trump fell short of the nominating threshold.

That debate proved moot when Trump waltzed into the convention with more than enough delegates to secure the party's nod.

The ad also quotes members of Messer's finance team blasting Trump during the primary campaign, one saying he'd debate a vote for Trump if Satan was closing in on the party's nomination and another who said Trump doesn't represent his values.

After playing a quick clip of Messer saying in June 2016 that Trump hasn't yet shown what it means to be presidential, the narrator closes the ad by charging: "If you like Donald Trump, you won't like Luke Messer. He's with the elite, not us."

The digital spot, which the Rokita campaign released quietly last month and is now promoting with a five-figure statewide social media buy, is indicative of Rokita's push to frame the race as dividing along pro-Trump, anti-Trump lines.

Over the summer, his team touted support from Trump's former Indiana leadership team after the two men wrote a letter praising Rokita for his support during the campaign.

But Messer's orbit has brushed aside the accusations that he's anything but loyal to the president, pointing to the fact that many of Messer's top supporters are close to the administration, including Vice President Pence's brother, Greg.

"Luke Messer voted for President Trump in the Indiana Primary and has supported him since.  Congressman Rokita is throwing a tantrum after he wasn't able to join the President in Indiana. While he plays politics, Luke is working with the President and Vice President to pass tax relief," Messer campaign manager Chasen Bullock told The Hill in a statement.

Messer attended Trump's Wednesday trip to unveil his tax plan in Indiana and touted his defense of Trump's attacks on football players kneeling for the national anthem in a recent fundraising pitch. Rokita's team told The Hill that while he was invited, he chose to stay in Washington to attend House votes. 

The two men are vying for the right to take on Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in the 2018 midterm election in a state that Trump won by almost 19 points in the presidential election.

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