It's not hard to see why Dan Coats was able to survive the anti-establishment wave this year. Sure, it helped that the former Indiana senator and U.S. ambassador to Germany had two GOP primary opponents who split the anti-establishment vote, enabling him to grab the nomination with about 40 percent of the total vote. But Coats didn't take anything for granted in the primary. (And it didn't hurt that he's much more personable than, say, Bob Bennett of Utah.) Coats ran hard out of the gates as a Reagan conservative, and he isn't letting up in the general election.
Coats stopped by THE WEEKLY STANDARD this afternoon to talk about his campaign and said that he wouldn't be running if he wasn't determined to bring "structural change" to the federal government. Lamenting that Republicans had lost their way "doing earmarks as hard as the other guys," Coats says now there's no more time to "kick the can down the road" on the federal debt.
He recalls that during one GOP candidate forum this spring, the candidates were asked what specifically they would do to rein in federal spending. While other candidates suggested slashing the Department of Education or a 1 percent across-the-board spending cut, Coats told the audience that those proposals simply "wouldn't put a dent" in the federal debt. What we need to do, Coats says, is implement entitlement reform "along the lines of what Paul Ryan has proposed."
Coats credits Governor Mitch Daniels for creating a cultural change in Indiana that makes it possible to talk about third-rail issues like entitlement reform. After witnessing the state get its fiscal house in order by cutting spending without raising taxes, Coats says voters are thinking to themselves, "Well, if you can do that in Indiana, why can't you do that in Washington?"
Coats says that his opponent Brad Ellsworth was hurt "a lot" by voting for Obamacare not only because it was a big-government vote, but also because it betrayed his claim to be the "guardian at the gate" for pro-lifers. Coats said he will focus his campaign on Ellsworth's support for the Obama-Pelosi agenda and predicted that Ellsworth would try to avoid talking about issues as much as possible, and paint Coats as a D.C. insider.
The latest Rasmussen poll shows Coats leading Ellsworth 51 to 36 percent.