Toomey, McGinty battle the split personality of Pennsyltucky

Republicans are defending too many Senate seats to be comfortable this year and several of these races are running neck and neck. One of them is in Pennsylvania, where Pat Toomey is fending off a challenge from Katie McGinty. Quinnipiac had Toomey up by eight points three weeks ago, but the RCP average shows the race closing with Toomey’s lead being within the margin of error. Both candidates are hitting the trail hard to make their final pitch, but the message voters are hearing seems to be situational based on where they live. In fact, if you listened to the campaign ads in central Philadelphia and then watched the ones airing in Scranton you might think you were hearing about two different races. (Politico)

GOP Sen. Pat Toomey’s campaign and outside allies are spending millions of dollars on ads casting the senator as a bipartisan hero for pushing for universal background checks on gun purchases. Democrats, meanwhile, are relentlessly praising Katie McGinty as a fighter for abortion rights and connecting Toomey to Donald Trump.

The catch? They are basically only doing it in Philadelphia.

There are really two races for Senate in Pennsylvania: One focused on more liberal social and cultural issues (and Trump) in the Philadelphia area, and another outside the nation’s fifth-largest city and its suburbs, where McGinty and Toomey mostly emphasize populist economic issues, including taxes and Wall Street. The Senate campaign residents of the Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Scranton areas are hearing about this fall sounds very different to the one in Philadelphia.

There’s a certain duality in the nature of all the larger states which have both major urban centers and large, rural stretches, but few of them have as stark of a divide as Pennsylvania. That’s why politicos in this part of the country frequently refer to it as Pennsyltucky. There are two big cities on either end of the state with a vast reach of small towns, farmland and mines between them. Philadelphia is essenitally a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party while the middle of the state elects Republicans. So how does anyone manage to run a statewide race there?

Typically they do just what you’re seeing in that Politico article. Republicans talk jobs and fiscal issues in Philadelphia while championing gun rights and social issues to the west. McGinty is following the usual Democratic playbook, talking abortion rights, gun control and Black Lives Matter in Philly while remaining largely silent on those issues in Harrisburg. I often find myself wondering if that strategy really makes sense, particularly for Republicans. Why downplay your conservative bona fides in the city? You definitely want to maximize your vote in the urban areas, but it’s not as if any of the Democrats are going to switch teams for a guy with a slightly less conservative message when there’s a perfectly serviceable liberal on the other side of the ballot. It seems as if you’d want to energize every last Republican in Philadelphia (few though they may be) so they show up on election day rather than giving up in despair and staying home.

The other option – one which Toomey seems to be playing to his advantage quite well – is to focus more on McGinty’s ethical problems. And she’s got more than a few. (Post Gazette)

Last week [Rendell] told Politico that EMILY’s List would be in charge of what Politico called “the pro-McGinty independent expenditure operation” that would include a $2 million television buy partially funded by the League of Conservation Voters.

It is illegal for campaign committees to consult with super PACs, and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania pounced. It filed a complaint Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission, saying Mr. Rendell couldn’t have known those details if he hadn’t consulted with EMILY’s List.

Pat Toomey has largely distanced himself from Donald Trump, but the Pennsylvania state GOP needs to hope for the best while preparing for the worst. If Hillary Clinton wins this election it’s going to be more important than ever to keep hold of the Senate majority to act as a check on her agenda. And keeping Pat Toomey in office may turn out to be a crucial piece in that puzzle. This is not a race we want to skimp on this close to the finish line.