HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, in a campaign pitch to moderate voters, has launched a TV ad that recounts praise from Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, but he also is on TV attacking Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in other parts of the state.
The first-term Toomey is pursuing the split-state strategy as he tries to ward off a strong challenge by Democrat Katie McGinty, who served as a top environmental policy adviser to Bill Clinton’s White House and as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s chief of staff.
Toomey is among the Senate’s most endangered Republicans, running for re-election in Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania after compiling one of the most conservative voting records in Congress. The GOP is struggling to keep its 54-46 Senate majority, and the neck-and-neck race could tip control to Democrats.
A key part of Toomey’s campaign strategy is to show his independence from his party, like his refusal to endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
In a campaign visit Wednesday in Philadelphia’s suburbs, Kaine mentioned the Toomey ad, noting he’d once complimented Toomey as “a decent person, a civil person.” But he criticized Toomey for “neither condemning nor embracing” Trump.
“It’s whether somebody stands up for your values,” Kaine, a U.S. senator from Virginia, told the crowd at Bucks County Community College in Newtown.
He added, “I think Donald Trump poses a clear enough challenge that people ought to be able to go on the record and say what they think about him.”
Clinton holds a single-digit polling lead over Trump in Pennsylvania, which has backed the Democrat in six straight presidential elections and whose 20 electoral votes are a crucial stepping stone to victory.
The heavily populated and moderate Philadelphia suburbs are the closest thing to a must-win region in Pennsylvania and are where the Toomey ad mentioning Kaine is running.
The ad cites a 2013 news article in which Kaine commended Toomey’s seriousness, intellect and civility while they worked on a bipartisan budget committee. It also recounts praise by Democratic ex-Gov. Ed Rendell of Toomey as “a man of uncommon decency” as Toomey crossed party lines in 2013 to push for legislation to expand background checks on firearms purchases.
Meanwhile, a TV ad saying Toomey “will fight Clinton’s liberal agenda” is running in Pennsylvania’s more conservative northeastern market. McGinty is closely aligned with Clinton, and the ad’s narrator says, “with McGinty it’s a blank check for everything that Hillary wants.”
“Pennsylvania is a diverse state,” Toomey’s campaign said in a statement. “You don’t see Katie McGinty bragging about her radical abortion position outside of Philadelphia, or talking about how she wants to bankrupt coal companies and their workers in southwestern Pennsylvania.”
McGinty’s campaign responded that Toomey is only consistent about lying about her in every part of Pennsylvania.
“Unfortunately for Pat Toomey, Katie talks about protecting women’s health in every part of the commonwealth, and women in every part of Pennsylvania know Pat Toomey wanted to shut down the government in order to defund Planned Parenthood,” McGinty’s campaign said in a statement.