June 17, 2024

Beckwith poses a 'serious threat' to Braun's campaign, says GOP powerhouse lawyer

Jim Bopp, right, chats with U.S. Sen. Mike Braun before a Jan. 25, 2024 gubernatorial forum in Carmel. - Whitney Downard / Indiana Capital Chronicle

Jim Bopp, right, chats with U.S. Sen. Mike Braun before a Jan. 25, 2024 gubernatorial forum in Carmel.

Whitney Downard / Indiana Capital Chronicle

Republican gubernatorial nominee Mike Braun faces a “serious threat” to his candidacy after Noblesville pastor Micah Beckwith was selected as his running mate, according to an internal campaign memo penned by prominent conservative attorney Jim Bopp.

The five-page report, obtained by the Indiana Capital Chronicle Sunday evening, outlines “several negative effects” of Beckwith’s nomination, including concerns that Beckwith will cause “division and chaos” and “undermine” Braun’s leadership.

Chief among Bopp’s worries, however, is the possibility that Beckwith could keep Braun out of the Statehouse altogether.

“Beckwith’s nomination as Lt. Gov poses a serious threat to the Braun candidacy, election and administration,” Bopp wrote, later saying in the memo that “the Democrats have a real opportunity to launch a serious campaign in the fall because of Beckwith’s nomination, and it has already begun.”

The Terre Haute-based lawyer and staunch anti-abortion advocate theorized that current Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jennifer McCormick could be swapped out with Joe Donnelly, a former U.S. senator from Indiana, and she would be moved to the lieutenant governor spot on the ticket.

Bopp said the Democrats’ campaign “would focus almost exclusively” on Beckwith and his “radical” views. He pointed specifically to a video Beckwith made after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, in which he said the assault was “divinely inspired.”

Bopp predicted “tens of millions would be spent” on “endless ads quoting and featuring” the radical pastor’s statements on that issue and others, forcing Braun to begrudgingly support or distance himself from Beckwith — either of which could sacrifice votes.

“Braun will be asked, and held in account, for every statement Beckwith has ever made. So how does Braun respond? If he is viewed to be repudiating Beckwith or even distancing himself from him, he loses support from hardcore Beckwith supporters and if he embassies Beckwith, he feeds into the Democrat campaign,” Bopp wrote. “And since Beckwith wins if Braun wins, how can Braun really separate himself from Beckwith if he tried? And does saying ‘I am in charge’ really work when the convention has just nominated Beckwith to hold Braun in account(?) (A)nd it is obvious that Beckwith has no interest in following Braun’s lead if he does not want to.”

“By running against Beckwith, the Democrats will be able to (raise) unlimited funds from their left wing allies and billionaire liberal supporters,” Bopp continued. “In taking down Beckwith, they take down Braun. And they will paint the whole ticket, including Todd (Rokita), with this brush.”

When asked about the memo, Bopp said in a statement to the Capital Chronicle that, “I do not discuss confidential communications with others. And I think it was despicable that someone leaked it.”

Josh Kelley, a senior advisor to Braun, separately told the Capital Chronicle that Bopp’s memo “represented his personal views, and there was no way that he implied otherwise.”

“Mike Braun is excited to lead the Indiana Republican Party with Micah Beckwith to historic victories in November,” Kelley said in a statement. “Braun remains focused on enacting a bold conservative agenda as governor and is excited to have Micah Beckwith as his partner to get the job done.”

A ‘serious threat’

Indiana’s GOP delegates narrowly named Beckwith as the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in a shocking vote at the party’s convention Saturday, rebuffing first-term Rep. Julie McGuire — Braun’s handpicked choice for the role — who had received a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

Beckwith ran an unorthodox solo campaign for the number two spot, publicly pitching himself as both the prospective governor’s cheerleader and a check on his power.

Bopp noted he ran a campaign to the right of Braun, and that his agenda to “hold the Republican Establishment in account” includes Braun, “most particularly.”

“He will do so with the bully pulpit of Lt. Gov. and endorsement of the Indiana Republican Party at our convention. He has been very active in public speaking over the years, expressing his views on numerous subject(s), and has explicitly run as a Pastor and Christian who will bring that to state government,” Bopp said. “Since both Braun and Beckwith are voted on together as a team, this poses special challenges to the Braun campaign.”

Beckwith is the pastor at Life Church’s Noblesville campus and co-hosts a podcast called “Jesus, Sex and Politics” with another pastor. He also operates a small business — a music school — and remains involved in his family’s dairy company.

He has additionally spent about five years doing policy work with the Indiana Family Institute and was prominent in a Hamilton County public library effort to relocate allegedly inappropriate books.

In his assessment of Hoosier voters, Bopp looked to the 2022 general election to surmise that 25% is the “default Republican margin” expected this November.

He looked, too, at Indiana Secretary of State Diego Morales, who in 2022 won by 15%, despite facing a “modest” counter-campaign that detoured some “soft/moderate Republican voters.”

A door opening for Democrats?

Bopp cautioned that Braun might not fare so well against campaign attacks, however.

The memo highlights Trump’s May primary results in Indiana, which suggest 10% of GOP voters were “not convinced to support” the former president. Bopp further noted Braun “only got 40% of the Republican primary vote,” and that Libertarian nominee Donald Rainwater will be on the ballot “to drain off some conservative votes,” as well.

“ … it is perfectly plausible that 8% of Diego’s general election vote could be (peeled) away by a vigorous campaign by the Democrats targeting Beckwith …” Bopp said. “This makes the general election very dicey.”

Bopp also expressed concern for incumbent Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who could still face additional charges from the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

“… if disciplinary charges are brought against Todd during the general election, this will add an additional threat to Todd that he will have to meet. And those charges will also be used to smear the whole team,” Bopp wrote.

Donnelly did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the suggestion he could be tapped to run.

The only way this could happen is if McCormick withdraws from the ballot.

The Indiana Democratic Party has so far excoriated Beckwith’s positions as “extreme,” and in a statement, Democratic Party Chairman Mike Schmuhl told the Capital Chronicle that Beckwith’s “absurd views have Republicans scrambling, and rightfully so.”

“The Bopp memo shows that even the lawyer who wrote Indiana’s draconian abortion ban thinks that Micah Beckwith’s views are out of the mainstream,” Schmuhl said. “(Beckwith’s) presence on the ticket shows how far the Indiana GOP has gone to appease the most extreme members of its base at the expense of the majority of Hoosiers.”

“As we move toward November, Hoosiers deserve to hear and see all of the outlandish claims Beckwith has made and his views on the issues of the day,” he continued. “He is not remotely qualified to step into the Statehouse, let alone be next in line to be governor, and the Bopp memo outlines the real danger he poses to their ticket and our state’s future.”

Jennifer McCormick has the experience to be a leader for all Hoosiers from day one, and her administration will put Hoosiers’ freedoms and their hard work first. She’ll support our local schools, and reject divisive extremism.”

McCormick also did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Her campaign said in an announcement last week that her lieutenant governor pick is expected soon.

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