Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race, an ugly brawl and the most expensive Senate race ever, is finishing on a curious note: incumbent Republican Pat Toomey’s ad for the final weekend features the guy he’s been knocking all year long: President Obama.
The ad touts President Obama’s praise of Toomey and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin for proposing increased gun background checks in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings.
“On keeping guns away from criminals, listen to what President Obama says about Pat Toomey,” an announcer says in the ad. That introduces a video clip of Obama outside the White House praising Toomey & Machin’s courage, saying what they’d done “was not easy.”
Because the announcer uses the expression “what President Obama says,” you might think he’d reeled off some admiring thoughts about Toomey last week. In fact it was three years ago, and Obama is not pleased with the ad.
In a statement the president said Toomey showed a lack of courage in the campaign by refusing to take a position on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, “trying instead to have it both ways by telling different people what he thinks they want to hear.” Obama made it clear he favors McGinty in the race.
Toomey’s defense is simple: The ad doesn’t claim he’s endorsed by Obama. The video clip is real, and the president said what he said.
It’s smart politics for Toomey, who needs to appeal to independent and moderate voters in this race. But, you might wonder, won’t it play badly among his more conservative supporters?
Yeah, but most of them probably won’t see it. The ad is running only in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets.
This reminds a lot of the “guru” ad that a political consultant named James Carville used to attack Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate William Scranton, 3rd in 1986.
Scranton had admitted to recreational drug use and transcendental meditation in his youth, and the ad featured sitar music and images of drugged-out hippies to tar Scranton. It ran in every market except Philadelphia.
The push for turnoutBoth Toomey and Democratic challenger Katie McGinty worked to rally their core supporters over the weekend, and took sharply contrasting stances on their party’s presidential candidates.
McGinty spent the weekend campaigning with leading Democrats, stumping with Vice President Joe Biden and warmly embracing presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at a Philadelphia rally featuring singer Katy Perry.
“As long as we’re shattering that glass ceiling, anybody in to help me shatter the glass ceiling in the United States Senate as well?,” McGinty shouted to the cheering crowd.
If elected, McGinty would be the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in the Senate.
Toomey did a series of smaller events in the Philadelphia suburbs with Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton. I caught one in an airplane hangar at Wings Field in Whitpain Township, Montgomery County.
“This election is tied. It’s a dead heat between me and Katie McGinty,” Toomey said. “You know who wins tied races? It’s the side that wants it the most.”
Toomey said more important than TV ads now are the personal recommendations of his supporters to their friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.
“That’s what wins elections,” he said.
Neither Toomey nor any of the other Republicans who spoke mentioned Trump.