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IN THE NEWS: As Joe Donnelly tackles ag, trade issues, even Republicans admit: “Donnelly’s just a good candidate”

A pair of new looks at Joe and the Indiana race from Bloomberg and Talking Points Memo shows two starkly different Senate races – while the GOP primary resembles a “three car pile-up,” Joe continues to work hard and speak to the issues that matter to Hoosiers in every corner of the state.

Whether it’s fighting for Hoosier farmers, securing new funding to fight the opioid crisis, or protecting access to affordable health care, Hoosiers know Joe has their best interests at heart. Even Republicans are publicly admitting that thanks to Joe’s work ethic and man-in-the-middle profile, “Donnelly’s just a good candidate.”

From Bloomberg: Trade and Tax Cuts at Center of Democrat’s Run in Trump Countr

At a diner in Rensselaer, Indiana, last week, Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly faced some agitated constituents. It wasn’t Donnelly’s opposition to the GOP tax-cut that animated these voters in the Republican-dominated state.

Instead, many of the more than two-dozen farmers gathered aired complaints about President Donald Trump’s policies, primarily escalating trade tensions that threaten exports of pork and soybeans to China and corn sales to Canada and Mexico, as well as an uncertain future for a government mandate that fuel be mixed with corn-based ethanol.

They were the type of voters Donnelly is doggedly cultivating as he seeks a second term in a state that Trump won by 19 percentage points in 2016. The only member of the Indiana congressional delegation with a spot on an agriculture committee, he stressed his work with GOP senators on a forthcoming crop-subsidy bill and his contacts with Trump administration officials to urge a better trade climate.

In the Senate, Donnelly voted with Republicans to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and in favor of many of Trump’s nominees, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

With the election looming, he’s showcasing his work with Republican senators on legislation to secure passage of $4 billion in opioid funding for states, the broad-based farm bill up for debate in coming weeks and a just-passed measure with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, that eased regulations for regional and community banks.

“I’ve always believed that the best campaign is to just do your job the very very best you can,” Donnelly, who’s unopposed in the Democratic primary said. “So I feel very positive about this.”

At the Rensselaer diner, soybean and livestock farmer Kendall Culp, also a Republican, said he’s undecided. He said Donnelly’s uncontested status gives him some clear advantages.

“He can sit back and continue to build constituent relationships, raise dollars and go throughout the state and do his job,” Culp said after the meeting with Donnelly. “I think that bodes well for him. And he’s certainly been a friend to agriculture.”

From Talking Points Memo: Indy Senate GOP Primary Veers Towards Three-Car Pileup

Indiana Republicans are bracing for a three-car pileup in a key primary next month that will have major implications for the balance of the Senate.

“The nastier this gets and the more money these guys have to spend, the better this looks for Donnelly,” Ed Feigenbaum, the longtime editor of the nonpartisan Indiana Legislative Insight newsletter, told TPM.

“You have to call it a jump-ball in the general election,” said Indiana-based GOP strategist Kurt Luidhardt. “Donnelly’s just a good candidate. … A lot of the old Republican donor community maintain good ties with him, and he does a really good job in Indiana appearing like he’s a moderate.”