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This is the first in a series of articles examining the key issues in the Senate race.

INDIANAPOLIS – Both Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly and Republican challenger Mike Braun have been on both sides of tariff policy. President Trump’s trade war finds them on opposite sides from each other.

Braun declared early in the primary campaign that his business experience tells him tariffs are a bad idea. But he says he supports President Trump’s tariff assault on China, calling it an overdue attempt to force China to abide by fair trade practices.

Donnelly has supported tariffs against China’s steel industry  to punish China for unfair trade practices like dumping steel at below-market costs. But he says tariffs in that instance would be narrowly focused on a specific issue. He says Trump’s broader tariffs on billions of dollars in goods threaten to hurt the U-S more. He says farmers are already being forced to sell at below-market costs, while Hoosier manufacturers will see their costs rise to the point where it’s difficult to compete with their rivals.

China has leapfrogged Japan, France snd Germany over the last two years to become Indiana’s third-largest trading partner, and is the biggest importer of Indiana soybeans.

Braun acknowledges farmers are feeling the squeeze from the trade showdown, but points to the recent trade agreement with Mexico as evidence the White House’s tougher approach to trade will bring results. He says farmers need to give the strategy with China time to work as well, and says the U.S. can band together with Mexico, Canada and the European Union to make up for the temporary loss in Chinese markets.

Donnelly calls the trade war strategy of blowing up a whole house when there’s a window that needs to be fixed.

Both candidates have accused each other of hypocrisy on foreign trade. Donnelly allies have blasted Braun for including Chinese products among the goods shipped by his company, Meyer Distributing. Republicans have slammed Donnelly for his former membership on the board of an inkpad company owned by his brother which makes its products in Mexico.

Braun argues the inkpad company took away jobs which could have been held in the U.S., while his company is merely shipping products, not manufacturing them. Donnelly sold his stock in his brother’s company after Republicans raised it as an issue, but says he hadn’t been directly involved in the company in decades. He says the company has added jobs in the U.S. too. And he argues Braun hasn’t played straight with voters, by minimizing the number of Chinese suppliers Meyer does business with.

(Photo: by Gregg Newton/Getty)