Pennsylvania’s US Senate race has emerged as one of the closest in the country, with Republican incumbent Pat Toomey and Democrat Katie McGinty battling for tiny leads in state polls.
In in a speech Monday, Toomey worked to strike a delicate balance between appealing to his conservative base and not alienating moderates. Most importantly for that strategy, Toomey is still distancing himself from his own party’s presidential nominee.
The senator has been notoriously evasive about his position on Trump, saying repeatedly that he’d like to eventually endorse Donald Trump, but can’t fully support him.
“I think it’s very important to Pennsylvanians that their senator be an independent voice,” Toomey said. “And sometimes that means disagreeing with your own party. I have consistently demonstrated that I am willing to do that when I think my party or my party’s leadership is wrong.”
Toomey did say he thinks some good could be accomplished under a Trump presidency. But he also called Trump “offensive.”
Toomey spent time painting McGinty as little more than a surrogate for Democrats in Washington as well.
“What has caused this feeble economy that is leaving behind millions of Pennsylvanians?” he asked. “Well, to that extent that Katie McGinty has a theory, it appears that that theory is, we just don’t have enough government.”
Hillary Clinton currently leads Trump in Pennsylvania, though her margin has shrunk considerably in recent weeks.
If her lead holds, Toomey will likely have to convince some moderate Democratic voters to split their tickets and vote for him. Ticket splitting has declined significantly in recent decades.