The Republican primary battle for Indiana’s open Senate seat is shaping up to be one for the ages. Rep. Jim Banks, a 43-year-old former state senator and veteran of the Afghanistan war, formally launched his candidacy for the Senate on Tuesday.
Banks is highlighting his conservative credentials, telling Fox News Digital as he announced his candidacy that “Indiana deserves a conservative senator” and showcasing that he’s “been a leading conservative voice in the House.”
Potentially joining Banks in the race is former two-term Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, a 73-year-old former top official in then-President George W. Bush’s administration who until stepping down at the end of last year served the past decade as president of Purdue University.
However, some in Trump world are already unloading on Daniels. Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted last Friday “The establishment is trying to recruit weak RINO Mitch Daniels to run for US Senate in Indiana. He would be Mitt Romney 2.0.”
A source close to Banks, pointing to Trump’s continued popularity in Indiana, argued to Fox News that “I truly don’t think Daniels allies are doing the former governor any favors with the Republican electorate by criticizing Trump. It really makes me wonder if they’re really serious about running for the Senate in the first place.”
And the source noted that “the differences between Jim Banks and Mitch Daniels are a lot more substantive than their feelings about Donald Trump, from China police to wokeness in corporate America.”
Daniels’ allies bristle at such critiques of the former governor, who long was known as a conservative. “For those guys to try to portray Mitch Daniels as not conservative is absurd,” said Mark Lubbers, a longtime Daniels adviser and friend.
The GOP Senate primary in Indiana could turn into a new skirmish in the ongoing Republican civil war. With attacks and counter-attacks already underway even before Daniels has made a decision on running, and former President Donald Trump’s political allies taking part in the political fireworks, it’s clear that the future of the Republican party is on the line.
The Democrats will have a tough time winning this seat, as Indiana is a reliably red state. The Republican primary is shaping up to be an epic battle, and one that will have major implications for the party’s future.