With just two weeks before the midterm election, the pro-life Catholic is surging in the polls.
A Braun campaign poll conducted Oct. 14–17 shows the Hoosier State businessman leading Donnelly 44 to 40 percent; importantly, the survey revealed he's ahead among those with the highest level of enthusiasm for voting on Nov. 6.
Analysts note that 45 percent of voters view Donnelly as part of the "problem" — a Washington insider and defender of the D.C. swamp — compared to just 34 percent who say he's part of the "solution" to what ails the country.
Though Sen. Donnelly is often described as a moderate or conservative Democrat, his voting record exposes his claimed autonomy from party leadership as more facade than fact.
Slamming the senator's "masquerade as a moderate" last week, Braun tweeted: "Democrat Donnelly tells Hoosiers he's in the middle, but in DC he votes with socialist Bernie Sanders over 70% of the time. ... Like Bernie said today, Donnelly will 'say what he wants to say' but when it comes time to vote, the Democrats need him."
A case in point: the Kavanaugh vote. Donnelly's campaign is reeling from his decision earlier this month to join Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in their failed attempt to scuttle Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Downvoting Kavanaugh "started a firestorm of epic proportions," observed Jodi Smith, state director of pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, after the vote. Smith described the senator's decision to fall in line with party leadership instead of honoring the will of his own constituents as "one of the best things that could happen to us," noting it may have doomed his bid to return to Washington.
Though Donnelly describes himself as "committed to protecting the sanctity of life" — touting his endorsement by Democrats for Life of America, his vote to ban abortion after 20 weeks and his co-sponsorship of a ban on taxpayer funding of abortion as pro-life credentials — his wider voting record on life issues has earned him low ratings from pro-family policy groups: Eagle Forum, founded by Catholic conservative Phyllis Schlafly, has given him a 19 percent positive rating; the American Family Association ranks him lower, at zero percent.
Pro-life advocates point out that Donnelly — a self-identified Catholic — has sided with Planned Parenthood in two out of every three abortion-related congressional votes.
He has voted repeatedly against federal defunding of Planned Parenthood. Since 2016, he has voted consistently to preserve more than half a billion dollars in taxpayer funding for the nation's largest abortion provider, responsible for more than 300,000 unborn deaths each year — 900 every day.
In 2017, he remained silent as the Democratic National Committee presented Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards a lifetime achievement award, earning the rebuke of pro-life groups.
Fed up with Donnelly's betrayal of the pro-life cause, in 2017, the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) launched a campaign to expose his "true nature," sponsoring a door-to-door field team to inform Hoosiers that the senator is "dramatically out of step with Indiana voters" on abortion. Since the launch of the campaign, the pro-life canvassers have visited more than 120,000 Indiana homes.
SBA List National Campaign Chair Jill Stanek has spoken out against Sen. Donnelly's commitment to Planned Parenthood's abortion regime.
"Planned Parenthood ends the lives of more than 300,000 babies each year and wounds that many mothers," she said. "They are under investigation for their role in the harvest and sale of baby body parts. Hoosiers deserve a Senator who will side with them, unlike Sen. Donnelly, who stands with the brutal abortion lobby."
Stanek is echoed by Sue Swayze Liebel, SBA List's Indiana state chair.
"Senator Donnelly tells Hoosiers he opposes taxpayer funding of abortion, but in Washington, he's voted repeatedly to continue sending tax dollars to Planned Parenthood, the country's biggest abortion business," she said. "His votes are dramatically out of step with our pro-life state."
The SBA List has been joined by other pro-life groups in opposing Donnelly's re-election. In April, Indiana Right to Life endorsed the senator's Republican challenger, Mike Braun. In July, National Right to Life declared that it, too, is backing Braun.
"National Right to Life is pleased to endorse Mike Braun for the U.S. Senate. Mike Braun's position on life reflects the true values of Indiana's voters," said Carol Tobias, National Right to Life president. "Many Indiana voters will be surprised to learn that, while Joe Donnelly claims to be pro-life, he has voted pro-life less than one-third of the time over his six-year term."
"Indiana voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable among us should vote for Mike Braun in November," she added. "Indiana's unborn children deserve a senator like Mike Braun, who will vote to protect their lives, rather than Joe Donnelly, who votes to protect the financial interests of the abortion industry."
Braun declares himself to be "100 percent pro-life" and has pledged he "will support legislation that says that life begins at conception."