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September 27, 2016

Toomey still keeping Trump at arm's length

Opponent McGinty tries tying two together: Choice is 'clear'

A little more than a month before the November general election, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is still keeping distance between himself and his party's presidential nominee — and he's even trying to use that separation as a political advantage in his re-election effort.

Meanwhile, his opponent, Democrat Katie McGinty, is still trying to tie the two together in voters' minds.

Toomey has not endorsed Donald Trump, joining a number of GOP colleagues in refusing to throw their support behind the oft-controversial candidate.

Make no mistake: He's certainly no fan of Hillary Clinton. But in a swing state that has more registered Democrats than Republicans, Toomey has tried painting himself as a politician who is willing to stand up to either party.

The first-term senator tried making that point while also keeping Trump at arm's length at an appearance at the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg Monday.

Toomey did say he hoped to get to the point where he can enthusiastically support Trump, but later added (per the York Dispatch): “I think the most important thing for most Pennsylvanians is not which candidate voted for which presidential nominee, (but) is which person is going to be an independent voice for Pennsylvania, who’s going to stand up to a president of either party when that president goes wrong?”

McGinty has repeatedly tried using Toomey's non-endorsement against him. In a statement following Monday night's presidential debate — in which Trump's performance was panned by several conservative commentators — McGinty said it was clear that Clinton is ready to be president and Trump is not.

"I've seen more than enough to know that the choice we face in this election could not be more clear, and it's unacceptable that Pat Toomey continues to disrespect his own constituents and refuse to be honest about where he stands," she said.

McGinty brought up the same point while introducing U.S. Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday at a Clinton campaign event at Drexel University.

"Every time someone mentions (Trump's) name to Pat Toomey, he runs and hides," McGinty said.

Polls so far have shown McGinty and Toomey very close. A Monday poll from the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics showed Toomey ahead of McGinty by a single point. Recent polling models from FiveThirtyEight give McGinty the slight edge.

In order to retain his seat, Toomey will likely need to rely on split-ticket voting. He said in August that Pennsylvania voters are "sophisticated" and recognize that Trump is in a category "unto himself."

"So they will make their decision about the presidential race, and then they will make a completely separate decision about the person they want representing them in the United States Senate," he said, according to The Associated Press.

Toomey said before Monday’s debate that he was hoping for "thoughtful, substantive answers" from Trump. His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the debate Tuesday morning.