The Campaign Spot

Chatting With Dan Coats

I chatted with Dan Coats, the once and perhaps future senator from Indiana.

I asked how the mood in Indiana had changed since Barack Obama won the state on Election Night 2008. “There’s a great deal of buyer’s remorse,” Coats said. “What we’re seeing is not what he promised, not what we thought he would be… He promised a vision that was nothing like what we’re seeing now.” Coats said he’s heard from independents and Democrats who have

“Health care was a catalyst,” Coats said. “There is this sense of arrogance and defiance, after what happened in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts… You could see the will of the people in rallies like the Tea Parties, and the engaged opposition to health care. There’s this deep frustration, and fear that we’re being led down the wrong road… We’re losing the America we grew up with, a sense that the values we grew up with are being thrown out the window by this administration, replaced with a nanny state, a sense that the government will take care of the people, and just forget about the deficit and the debt.”

The polling in the state is pretty sparse, but it appears Coats leads narrowly, with state senator Marlin Stutzman and former congressman John Hostettler the two closest competitors in the GOP primary.

“I’m applying for the job, just like all the others. We have five conservatives, so in many ways we’re all singing off the same song sheet,” Coats says. Asked what separates him from his Republican competitors, the 66-year-old, who represented Indiana in Congress from 1981 to 1999, declares his experience, emphasizing the ability to make “tough decisions in a time of war.” He mentions that his second day on the job as U.S. Ambassador to Germany was 9/11.

Coats says the country needs “a really solid, tough, experienced hand” to deal with what he calls twin crises, a fiscal crisis and a crisis abroad stemming from the threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. “Hoosiers know me, and they know my record.”

I asked Coats what he thought of the man he’s likely to take on if he wins the primary, Democratic congressman Brad Ellsworth. “I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but you get to a point where people wonder whether you can match what you do in Washington with what you say back home. I don’t see how you can say you’re pro-life, for fiscal discipline, and opposed to runaway government spending and tax programs, and then with a little pressure from Obama, from Nancy Pelosi, and from Harry Reid, cave” and vote for the health care bill.

“How can people depend on you?” he asks.

Finally, asked whether already having the title “senator” helps get people to vote to return him to the same office, Coats chuckles, “ask me May 5,” referring to the day after the primary.

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