Obama praises Donnelly during rally in Gary

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President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at Concord Community High School Wednesday, June 1, 2016, in Elkhart, Ind. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

GARY, Ind. (AP) — Former President Barack Obama praised Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly on Sunday for being willing to break with his party, telling a roaring crowd at a rally in the state that “you don’t want just a yes man.”

Donnelly has sounded more like President Donald Trump while trying to persuade voters in the conservative Midwestern state to grant him a second term. He’s angered some Democrats by tacking to the right in recent weeks and embracing some of Trump’s pet priorities, such as building a border wall with Mexico.

But Obama told voters during the rally in Gary that Donnelly “tries to do right by people” — not just his party — and noted he supported the Affordable Care Act, the health care overhaul passed under Obama.

“Joe Donnelly and I didn’t agree all the time. But Joe always let me know where he stood and I knew what he believed in and that he always was focused on: ‘What’s the best thing for the Hoosiers that he served?’” Obama said. “He was honest and he was direct. So you can count on that. That’s what you want. You don’t want just a yes man all the time.”

Obama’s stop was sandwiched between his successor’s trips to the state Friday and Monday on behalf of GOP Senate candidate Mike Braun.

For Braun, a businessman who has campaigned as a steadfast Trump ally, the current president’s appearances in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne are no-brainers in a state he won two years ago by 19 points. But for Donnelly, who frequently touts how often he votes with Trump, the Obama rally was a little more complicated.

“If he does need to inoculate himself from some of his firmer conservative rhetoric, it’s a pretty effective way to do it,” said Christina Hale, a former state lawmaker and the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2016.

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