Pennsylvania Democratic Senate Candidate Katie McGinty appears to be cruising to a slim victory over incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, but she’s had a few trip ups recently. For starters, she called Toomey an “asshole,” an egregious act that saw her issuing an apology soon afterwards.
Now, she twisted herself into a pretzel over whether she supports taxpayer-funded abortion in accordance with her party’s platform on the subject. The 2016 Democratic Platform is the most left wing in recent memory (possibly ever) thanks to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) taking one-third of the platform committee seats to accommodate the Vermont senator’s better than expected challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
On Monday, McGinty deployed countermeasures at a Pennsylvania Press Club event when asked, “In Philadelphia, your party adopted a platform calling for the end of the Hyde Amendment. Do you agree?” The Hyde Amendment bars federal funds to be used for abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest, or threatens the life of the mother. Mark Hemingway of The Weekly Standard had more:
She [McGinty] voiced support for the "privacy" of women seeking abortions, but she never said if she supports repealing the Hyde amendment, which would result in unlimited federal funding of elective abortions for Medicaid recipients.
In interviews, she has often touted her Catholic faith. "McGinty, who was raised in an Irish Catholic family and remains religious today, often speaks about rebuilding the middle class and expanding education and economic opportunities for everyone," Penn Live reported in April. "'I believe deeply in the dignity of every single human being and I believe that every person has unique gifts given to them by God,' she said. 'We are poorer (to) the degree to which anyone is deprived opportunity.'"
Yet, here, McGinty said that these issues surrounding women’s health care have been politicized, that they’re often medically complex, and are painful decisions that women and their families must undertake. Yet, she added that Planned Parenthood provides vital services to 108,000 Pennsylvania women, and that she’s proud to stand by that organization.
So, of course, she didn’t answer the question. And sorry Ms. McGinty, when an organization is accused of trafficking in aborted baby parts—that’s a story that needs to be investigated. So, will this non-answer on abortion by McGinty, and possible future prevarications on this question, help Toomey? It remains to be seen.
In areas where Republicans are dominate, it should boost enthusiasm and resolve to make sure Toomey is re-elected. Yet, in the collar counties around Philadelphia, it’s a different story. These are dotted with Republican voters, but ones who are moderate in their politics, especially when it comes to gun control. One of the reasons, I think, Toomey has been able to keep the conditions for a landslide loss at bay is that he’s gravitated away from his Tea Party roots.
He’s been reliably Republican in some areas, but departed from his party of highly-charges issues like gun control. Michael Bloomberg and former Rep. Gabby Giffords’ gun control group have endorsed him. Not good for Toomey regarding his relationship with die-hard Republicans, but it could earn him a reputation of being a strong, independent voice despite his party affiliation. That’s what he’s banking on selling to his collar county constituents. He won Bucks County in 2010; he needs to do so again in order to have any hope of surviving. I’m not sure engaging in an abortion war, which energizes Democrats, is the answer. Then again, McGinty's non-answer may show that Democrats in PA are a bit worried about such an intense issue gaining traction. After all, it's not a popular position. Still, the historical trends in the state are against Toomey here.
It’s been said often, but it needs to be repeated: Pennsylvania is a cruel mistress for Republicans. Okay—maybe it’s the unicorn for the GOP concerning national elections. It’s also another reason to give some pause to the notion that Trump maybe costing us Senate seats. In fact, in 2012, Obama carried most of the states where Senate Republicans are playing defense this year. The climate was going to be tough, most of all in Pennsylvania.
It’s a tad maddening because the state is, by most metrics, a red one. Republicans run the vast majority of the state’s counties, the state legislature is Republican, and up until Tom Wolf booted Tom Corbett—the governorship was Republican. And yet, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh decide the state when it comes to presidential years.
During the midterms, with turnout being lower, the GOP fares better statewide. We saw this when Republican Pat Toomey won his 2010 senate race, but with re-election during a presidential year—with Clinton at the top of the Democratic ticket—turnout in the areas that matter will be a massive headwind for Toomey.
Until the end of the Republican National Convention, Republican nominee Donald Trump was trailing Clinton in the Keystone State by 8-10 points, but Toomey was remaining competitive against McGinty, who left Wolf’s office as his chief of staff to take on the Republican incumbent. She’s now leading him by almost three points on average, though still within the margin of error.
That being said, given Toomey’s independent streak, and Clinton being under siege for possible lapses in ethics regarding he Clinton Foundation, Toomey certainly has a good shot to survive this year. It certainly better than his colleague to the north, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.