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Local conservatives gnaw at Coats’ ear

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., faced a tough crowd in his “Coffee with Coats” gathering Thursday morning in Fort Wayne -- his own political party.

Many in the audience of about 50 people were Republican officeholders, volunteers and supporters.

“I was not trying to turn this into a partisan rally,” Coats joked near the end of the town-hall meeting at the Aboite Township trustee’s office and fire department.

But some in the audience seemed to want Coats to tack further to the right – to libertarian and tea-party territory – than he already has. They demanded the elimination of the IRS and the defunding of the Affordable Care Act. They rejected the notion of U.S. military intervention in Syria's civil war, even after allegations the Syrian regime used saran nerve gas on its citizens.

One man said conservatives “are tired of the Republican establishment attacking conservatives like Ted Cruz and Marlin Stutzman, Rand Paul, who are standing up for … the conservative principles of our nation.”

A woman chided Coats for having “a dog-and-pony show.” She said his public meeting should have been in the evening at a larger venue, such as nearby Homestead High School, and with more than a day’s notice.

“I got an earful here today, because I’m getting an earful as I go all over Indiana listening to people, but that’s my job,” Coats told reporters after Thursday’s event.

Earlier, he observed that voters re-elected a Democratic president and Democratic Senate majority in 2012. He said “just about everything Republicans pass in the House is dead on arrival” in the Senate, including the repeal of the federal health care law. Conservatives