Tonight’s Indiana Senate debate between Republican Representative Todd Young and former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh had one notable omission: Donald Trump.
In another year, this might not be news. Senate debates, in other years, tend to be policy heavy, often dull affairs. But Trump has forced Republicans into uncomfortable balancing acts over the past two weeks, ever since a video was leaked of him explicitly describing predatory-sounding advances on women. Several Republican Senate hopefuls disavowed him completely. Others have had to walk a fine line, fearful of alienating their voter base in states that Trump will likely win, but equally concerned about aligning themselves with his comments. The timing was particularly uncomfortable, with the video coming out at the start of Senate debate season.
It’s indicative of the unique dynamics of the Indiana Senate race that neither Bayh nor Young seemed to feel they had anything to gain by mentioning Trump. The moderator did not ask about him, but both candidates had ample opportunity to insert him in the conversation. Instead, the only references to the presidential race were when Bayh spoke of his disagreements with Clinton, and once, about something he agreed upon with the vice presidential nominee, Governor Mike Pence.
Trump looks likely to win Indiana, a red-hued state where his running mate is the governor. A Monmouth Poll taken in the aftermath of the video release found Trump leading in Indiana by four points. That means that Bayh, who has a six-point lead in that same poll, has little incentive to attack Trump, as he will probably need some Trump voters to split their tickets and vote for him.
But Young also has little reason to bring up Trump. Trump may look poised win in Indiana, that doesn’t mean he’s popular in the state: 58 percent said they had an unfavorable impression of Trump, while just 31 percent said they had a favorable impression of him. And so Young, who has said he will continue to back Trump, was spared having to do any verbal acrobatics.