McGinty stumbles over college try

    Katie McGinty's had a rough start to the general election campaign.(Jacqueline Larma/AP Photo)

    Katie McGinty's had a rough start to the general election campaign.(Jacqueline Larma/AP Photo)

    Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty, under attack from Republicans in TV ads, has apparently added to her problems by misstating a fact about her biography. It’s been a rough start to the Democrat’s general election campaign.

    McGinty is proud of her humble roots. She’s one of ten kids of a Philadelphia cop, and as she’s said quite a few times on the campaign trail, “the first of my family to go to college.”

    Except, it turns out, she isn’t.  The website BuzzFeed discovered that McGinty’s older brother John graduated from LaSalle eight years before Katie started college.

    The McGinty campaign says essentially that this is a trivial distinction.  A campaign statement attributed to John McGinty says that “the way that Katie and our family have always talked about our experience” is that she’s the family’s first to attend and finish a four-year college right out of high school. John started at a community college and later attended LaSalle.

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    Is this a big deal?

    I’m not sure.

    PolitiFact Pennsylvania looked at McGinty’s statement and gave it a “pants on fire” rating, indicating it’s a clear falsehood.

    The “first to go to college” claim is clearly inaccurate, but the campaign says McGinty often stated the matter correctly on the campaign trail.

    Franklin & Marshall professor Stephen Medvic said candidates talk so much in so many places that they sometimes get careless and start saying things in a kind of shorthand.

    Medvic thinks this is probably an innocent mistake because “it would awfully silly to actually lie about something like this that the world could check on.”

    How bad is the damage?

    “Typically these things aren’t all that damaging because people know that this is the way normal people sometimes talk about their lives,” Medvic said.

    It changes, Medvic said, if voters see a pattern of dishonesty, and the Toomey campaign and its super PAC allies are doing their best to put that image of McGinty in voters’ minds.

    Toomey campaign ads right after the April 26 primary portrayed McGinty as a self-dealing politician, and the  Freedom Partners Action Fund, associated with the conservative Koch brothers, have announced an eye-popping $3 million ad campaign this month attacking McGinty.

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