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'Trump factor,' health care drive Indiana voters

SUPPORT: President Donald Trump waves to supporters as he takes the stage for a rally at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne on Monday evening. Indiana delivered a Senate seat to Republicans Tuesday.

By TAMMY WEBBER - Associated Press

Health care and President Trump’s policies were important issues among Indiana residents in the midterm election, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate that found they’re divided over the state of the nation.

As voters cast ballots for U.S. Senate and members of Congress in Tuesday’s elections, AP VoteCast found that Indiana voters were split on whether the country is on the right track, with about half saying the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Here’s a snapshot of who voted and why in Indiana, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 135,000 voters and nonvoters — including 3,914 voters and 754 nonvoters in the state of Indiana — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

Race for senate

Voters were deciding whether to give President Trump another ally in Congress — Mike Braun, a Republican challenger to incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly. Trump visited the state several times to campaign for Braun.

Donnelly — who rarely mentions that he’s a Democrat — has said he agrees with Trump on some issues but promises he won’t be a rubber stamp. Still, he has adopted some of the president’s fiery rhetoric, ridiculing socialists and the “radical left” and calling on Congress to fund a border wall with Mexico.

Top issue: health care

Health care was at the forefront of Indiana voters’ minds, with almost 3 in 10 naming it as the most important issue facing the nation in this year’s midterm elections — including 30-year-old Cordell Chaney, who works at a Fort Wayne wire and cable products manufacturer. The father of four, with a fifth on the way, worries that Republicans will get rid of the Affordable Care Act if they remain in control of Congress.

“It really upsets me,” said Chaney, a member of the steelworkers’ union who said affordable health care that covers pre-existing conditions is critical. “Decent health insurance should be a right.”

More than one-fifth of voters considered immigration to be the top issue, while another one-fifth said it was the economy.

State of the economy

Indiana voters have a positive view of the nation’s current economic outlook — seven in 10 said the nation’s economy is good, which about 3 in 10 said it isn’t.

Forty-three-year-old steelworker Randy Graham said he has mixed feelings: He supports President Donald Trump’s move to impose tariffs on some foreign steel and aluminum, but not some of the president’s other steps, which he considers anti-labor.

“The tariffs have been great, they’ve helped stabilize the steel market, but he’s done other things that have undermined organized labor as well,” Graham said.

Trump factor

Chaney, the Fort Wayne worker, said Trump was a factor in his vote because, “I don’t think that he’s a leader” and he’s worried about the president’s tone.

“I believe that the president has taken us back. We’re not progressing, With the racial things he says, especially with immigration ... I believe it’s hate,” said Chaney, who’s biracial.

For one-third of Indiana voters, President Trump was not a factor they considered while casting their votes. But the majority of voters said he was a factor — with about one-third of them saying their vote was to support Trump and another one-third saying they voted to express opposition to the president.

Voters in Indiana had mixed views of Trump: About half said they approve of how he is handling his job as president, while just under half said they disapprove of Trump.

Control of congress

Tuesday’s elections will determine control of Congress in the final two years of Trump’s first term in office, and about 7 in 10 Indiana voters said which party will hold control was very important as they considered their vote. Another 2 in 10 said it was somewhat important.

Mark Allan, a 50-year-old truck driver from Indianapolis, said he likes how Trump is leading the country, particularly when it comes to immigration and foreign policy, and wanted to cast a ballot for someone who will vote for the president’s priorities.

“We need to keep the Senate Republican to support the agenda of Donald Trump,” he said.

Staying at home

In Indiana, 7 in 10 registered voters who chose not to vote in the midterm election were younger than 45. A wide share of those who did not vote — more than 8 in 10 — did not have a college degree. About one quarter of nonvoters were Democrats and more than one-third were Republicans.

Republicans outperformed Democrats here in Wabash County, maintaining their control of the Wabash County Council and town boards. Republican Party Chair Barbara Pearson, for example, won her first election to the Wabash County Council Tuesday. Pearson is finishing her first year on the council after having been appointed to complete former council president Jeff Dawes’ term.

The party did well across Indiana, too.

“I think it’s great for the party and great for the state of Indiana because I believe we are on the right track,” Pearson said. “We have the right ideas. We’re just working on the successes of President Trump, which translates into Indiana with jobs and low unemployment. It helps Indiana and our legislature to be able to build on that.”

“Indiana did not go as well as we would have liked,” Wabash County Democratic Party Chair Chad Harris said on Wednesday. “Democrat numbers were up locally as well as statewide, but the same held true for the Republicans. They came out in big numbers too.”

The midterm elections were seen by many as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s administration. In Indiana, that referendum went well: Republican Mike Braun handily defeated Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, even after Donnelly’s campaign tried to depict the senator as a moderate who supported much of the Trump agenda.

“I feel like even though Democrats are going to take over control of the U.S. House of Representatives, it was minimal to what President Obama and President Clinton went through in their midterms,” Pearson said. “And I think it’s historic that we gained seats in the Senate.

“It’s not ideal, but I feel it was minimal … We keep moving forward. We work together. I know we’re Democrat and Republican, but we always have to work together. I truly believe President Trump and elected Republicans in D.C. Will try to do that and we can stop all the insanity in D.C. With investigations. It does the country no good and it keeps the divide growing bigger and bigger.”

That doesn’t appear likely as top Democrats were already calling for investigations into Trump’s tax returns before election results were finalized Tuesday. And that’s exactly what some Democratic voters hoped would happen.

Harris, for example, said he thinks Democrats taking control of the House will bring “balance to some of the overreach that has happened in two years.”

“I think people can rest assured their pre-existing conditions will be protected,” he added. “(And there) may be some repeals of some of the (Trump administration’s) executive orders, or at least a look at or investigation into some of these executive orders that have gone on for the last two years.”

Plain Dealer reporter Andrew Christman contributed to this report.