INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Democrats this campaign season have gleefully attacked as their Republican opponents awkwardly try to distance themselves from Donald Trump, the party’s provocative presidential nominee.
In Indiana, a reliably red state, the opposite was true Tuesday during a U.S. Senate debate between former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh and GOP Congressman Todd Young.
In fact, Trump’s name wasn’t mentioned once.
Meanwhile Bayh name-checked Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, while going to great lengths to point out his differences with Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
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“I do have some difference with Secretary Clinton, although I support her in the race,” Bayh said during a news conference after the debate. “I don’t support her position on the Iran nuclear deal. I don’t support her position on cap and trade … and I don’t support her tax increase proposal.”
Of Trump — who he wouldn’t mention by name — Bayh said only: “Certainly some of the things he’s said I would strongly disagree with, but I’ll let other people make that judgment.”
The candidates clashed repeatedly during what could be their only debate, with Young arguing that Bayh accomplished little during his time as a senator. Young, who was often the aggressor, also renewed his assaults on Bayh’s work in Washington, D.C., since leaving the Senate six years ago.
“He’s all talk,” Young said. “He spent our money … stimulus, Obamacare, things that Hoosiers don’t want. That’s the record of a D.C. insider.”
The Associated Press previously reported Bayh conducted a job hunt in 2010, his final year in office, meeting with leaders in the corporate and financial world while casting votes that aligned with many of their priorities.
Bayh didn’t use the debate stage to defend his post-Senate work, which has been the subject of millions of dollars in attack ads from outside GOP groups including a group tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the billionaire Koch brothers.
Instead he referred several times to popular programs he supported during his time as Indiana governor from 1989 to 1997. Bayh also countered that he was proud to work with Republican former Sen. Richard Lugar to support the 2008 auto bailout that rescued carmakers General Motors and Chrysler.
“Congressman Young said let ’em go belly up,” Bayh said. “We don’t do that to our fellow Hoosiers.”
The Indiana campaign has become a key national race as Democrats try to capture the seat now held by retiring Republican Sen. Dan Coats and overturn the GOP’s narrow Senate majority.
Young frequently faulted Bayh for voting in favor of President Barack Obama’s health care law, arguing it has raised costs and hurt care in the state.
Young said Bayh abandoned Indiana residents after not seeking re-election in 2010, then collecting millions of dollars from various corporate jobs.
“Now, we can hold you accountable in this election,” Young said pointedly toward Bayh.
Bayh countered that he wants to fix parts of the health care overhaul and not allow insurance companies freedom to cancel policies as before the law was adopted.
In addition, Bayh said at least twice that the Republican push to repeal the health care overhaul would threaten Pence’s Healthy Indiana Plan, which is Indiana’s expansion of Medicaid under the program. Bayh maintained that would put the insurance coverage for 350,000 Indiana residents at risk.
“This is something that Gov. Pence did that I agree with, that Congressman Young wants to undo,” Bayh said.
Bayh, the Democrats’ prize Senate recruit, entered the race in July with a huge fundraising lead over Young and sky-high name ID from his time as a popular governor and senator.
But he’s been put on the defensive over his post-Senate work for a Washington law firm and private equity fund. Bayh earned nearly $6.3 million since the beginning of 2015, with about a third of the total coming from Apollo Global Management, a self-described alternative investment manager based in New York, according to financial disclosure records.
After the debate, Bayh blamed Young for the combative tenor of the event, which also included Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton.
“He made so many unfounded allegations tonight that it’s almost impossible to remember them all,” Bayh said. “He seemed like he was kinda losing it there at the end.”