HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is turning to the target of some of his toughest criticism to help him in his life-or-death re-election bid in Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania: President Barack Obama.
A new Toomey campaign TV ad running Friday shows Obama praising Toomey for working with a Democrat on legislation to require background checks on all firearms purchases online and at gun shows.
In the 30-second ad, Obama is speaking outside the White House in 2013 and thanks Toomey for his courage, despite the bill's failure.
"That was not easy," Obama said of the work by Toomey and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
It is the latest, and perhaps the most eye-opening, way in which Toomey is working to appeal to moderate voters whose support he will need to win his neck-and-neck race against Democrat Katie McGinty.
The ad is running on cable in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets.
Toomey has opposed practically all of Obama's major policy initiatives, from health care to immigration, and routinely delivers a stump speech that labels Obama's economic and foreign policies as complete failures.
A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman on Friday called the ad disingenuous and said Toomey is trying to make voters think he did anything but obstruct Obama's administration.
"If he respected Pennsylvanians or the truth at all, he'd take the ad down," the spokeswoman, Lauren Passalacqua, said.
The effort on the background checks bill cost Toomey endorsements from gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, even though Toomey voted more often than not with the NRA.
But that vote by Toomey also helped him pick up the endorsements of two prominent gun-control activists, billionaire Michael Bloomberg and former Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Toomey, who compiled one of Congress' most conservative voting records, is among the Senate's most vulnerable incumbents in a state where Democrats have a 4 to 3 registration advantage over Republicans.
McGinty, who served in Bill Clinton's White House, was recruited by national Democrats to run against Toomey.
With reported spending on the race since the start of 2015 surpassing $155 million, the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan government transparency think tank, said the election appears to be the most expensive U.S. Senate race ever.