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Will the GOP Nominate a Ron Paul Republican for Senate in Indiana?

The high stakes in tomorrow's GOP primary.

9:58 AM, May 3, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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On Tuesday, Indiana Republicans will elect a nominee to take on Democratic congressman Brad Ellsworth in the state's mid-term Senate race. Republicans have a prime opportunity to take over the seat being vacated by Evan Bayh, but prominent conservatives have been divided on whether to support former Senator Dan Coats or 33 year-old state senator and family farmer Marlin Stutzman for the GOP nomination. It's something of an establishmentarian versus reformist fight, but don't be confused: this isn't a mirror image of the Florida Republican primary.

Will the GOP Nominate a Ron Paul Republican for Senate in Indiana?

Former congressman John Hostettler

Dan Coats is no Charlie Crist. He has a mostly conservative voting record and has won the backing of conservative stalwarts Sen. Tom Coburn and Rep. Mike Pence, as well as Focus on the Family's James Dobson. Both Coats and Stutzman are pro-life, support repealing Obamacare, and oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants. The biggest mark against Coats's conservative bona fides is his 1993 vote for the Brady gun bill. Conservatives can rest assured that gun control isn't exactly going to be an issue in the near future.

But it's understandable that Republicans could see Stutzman as a fresh and more appealing alternative to Coats, who was a lobbyist and resided in Virginia after he retired from the Senate. Senator Jim DeMint endorsed Stutzman on April 20, and RedState.com's Erick Erickson called on conservatives to support Stutzman back in February.

A recent Rasmussen poll showed Coats beating the Democratic candidate Ellsworth by 21 points, while Stutzman was only 5 points ahead. But Stutzman's slimmer margin is likely due to the fact that he's less well known. In a Republican year like 2010, he'd probably surge to a healthy lead in the polls as voters got to know him. In all likelihood, tomorrow's GOP primary will determine who the next senator from Indiana is.

And that's precisely the reason why some Republicans who would otherwise like to vote for new blood in the GOP will nonetheless stick with Coats. The problem is that Indiana Republicans don't have a clean choice between Coats and Stutzman. Last Thursday, a SurveyUSA poll showed that former congressman John Hostettler, a third candidate who's largely been ignored by Republicans in Washington (except for Ron Paul), is actually in a better position to upset Coats than Stutzman is.

Coats garnered 36 percent of the vote, and Stutzman took 18 percent, while Hostettler--one of the six Republicans to vote against the Iraq war in 2002--was in second place at 24 percent. In other words, any Coats supporters who decide to switch their vote to Stutzman may just be paving the way for the anti-hawk Hostettler to slip into the Senate.

Hostettler's foreign policy views are well outside the Republican mainstream, but you wouldn't know it from his website. Though he does tout his endorsement from Ron Paul on the front page, the website's "issues" page doesn't mention a single national security or foreign policy issue. In an interview for an article in the American Conservative, Hostettler expressed hostility toward sanctions against Iran. "The neocons know what a Senator Hostettler would mean," he said. "They would rather have Evan Bayh as the lead sponsor of sanctions against Iran, bringing us to the brink of war or a Republican who would do the same thing."  Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League has pointed out that Hostettler argued in his self-published book that a cabal of American Jews pushed for the war in order to protect Israel.

Stutzman strongly disagrees with Hostettler's views on Iraq and Israel. America and the world are "better off" with Saddam out of power and America ought to "stand with Israel," he told me late last week. But if the SurveyUSA poll is accurate, voters who would like to pull the lever for Stutzman--but are more concerned about keeping a Ron Paul Republican like Hostettler out of the Senate--will have to stick with Coats.

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