Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita is leaving his safe Congressional seat to run for Senate against one-term Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, a real chance for Republicans to pick up a seat in the Senate even if Democrats take back the House in a wave. But first, Rokita has to win a highly-competitive primary, and boy oh boy is he debasing himself to do it.
On Tuesday, his campaign released an ad called “MAGA,” in which he blasts his primary opponents—including fellow Congressman Luke Messer, whom he calls a “Never Trumper”—for not loving Donald Trump hard enough. It says absolutely nothing about what Rokita personally believes or what he’ll do for Indiana in the Senate, but what he does do is face the camera and put on a Make America Great Again hat, and then he says he’ll help Trump and Mike Pence “drain the swamp.”
It’s not all that surprising that Republicans running in a competitive primary in Indiana would tack towards Trump, who won the 2016 primary there with 53 percent of the vote. What is surprising is that the guy doing it has such a very well-documented recent history of not loving Donald Trump.
The AP reported on Wednesday night that in February 2016, Rokita gave an interview to an Indianapolis television statement about why he was supporting Marco Rubio. “When you see Marco contrasted with Donald Trump — I mean someone who is vulgar, if not profane,” Rokita told WXIN in Indianapolis. “At some point you have to be presidential. People expect that and you see that in Marco Rubio.”
“He’s the standard bearer for the mainstream Republican Party, but also for people who want the best candidate, people who want to win against either a democratic socialist or someone who may be going to jail in October, or November, or later,” Rokita also said in the WXIN interview. “That’s the issue here, who can beat Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. And that undoubtedly is Marco Rubio.”
“The other ones are great too,” Rokita said later in the interview. “And if it’s Donald Trump, I will support Donald Trump. But Marco is clearly the best candidate.” When reporter Matt Smith pressed him to repeat that he would, Rokita responded: “Of course. All of the Republicans...are better than a democratic socialist or a criminal.”
When Rokita endorsed Rubio in 2016, he said:
“It is clear to me that Marco Rubio is that candidate. He has all the qualities needed to unite our fractured nation and address the major domestic and foreign policy challenges that confront America because of Barack Obama’s failed leadership.
“I have sat literally side-by-side with Marco on the Senate Intelligence Committee for over five years and have witnessed up close his grasp of complex issues and readiness to lead our nation as commander-in-chief. I am excited to support him and look forward to the next generation of conservative leadership under Marco Rubio.”
The Kokomo Tribune reported in March 2016—about a week after Rubio exited the race—that Rokita was asked at a town hall if he would support Trump despite his rhetoric against Muslims and immigrants. “Words are words and it’s not my cup of tea,” Rokita said. “It’s not how I conduct myself, hopefully you see that.”
Regardless, Rokita said he would support Trump if he was the nominee. And now, two years later, he does ads where he puts on a MAGA hat.
We’ve requested comment from Rokita’s office and will update if and when we hear back.