Bucknell Institute for Public Policy: Despite distancing from Trump, Toomey dominates PA’s senate race

Zachary Krivine, Contributing Writer

While the election of Donald Trump to the White House has been garnering much attention recently, another nail-biter occurred in our home state of Pennsylvania: Katie McGinty’s (D) attempt at Pat Toomey’s (R) Senate seat. With sitting majorities in the House and Senate, it was important for Republicans to maintain both if they wanted to have any say in the next round of government, especially going into an election night where Hillary Clinton was heavily favored to hold the executive office. Yet for the GOP, election night exceeded expectations, in no small part thanks to Toomey’s re-election.

Prior to Election Day, the race was expected to be close. In a herd of polls, McGinty led with advantages averaging around two points. Because both Democrats and Republicans so desperately wanted control of the Senate, and because the race was predicted to be so close, campaign funds poured in from around the country. Totaling a whopping $160 million, the Pennsylvania Senate race was the most expensive Senate race in history. The Democratic Senate Majority PAC contributed over $20 million to the total Senate race.

If you were watching television the week before Election Day, it would have been hard to avoid the constant barrage of attack advertisements. Announcements going after McGinty attempted to paint her as corrupt, alleging that she used her political ties to funnel business to the company that employed her husband. Toomey, on the other hand, was attacked by the McGinty campaign for fighting financial regulations while also holding stock in various banks.

Furthermore, the McGinty Campaign was hoping that Trump’s negative polling numbers nationwide would drag Toomey down with him. However, Toomey attempted to paint himself as a moderate able to work across the aisle, citing the fact that he supported a bill requiring universal background checks for gun purchases following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Whether or not he was able to distance himself from Trump, Toomey will be serving a second term.

Among the reasons why both the presidential and senatorial campaigns are always so close in Pennsylvania is the state’s perennial status as a swing state. Statewide, Toomey won by a slim margin of roughly 49 percent to roughly 47 percent, or just over 100,000 votes. Observing the counties, however, Toomey ran the table, taking every county except the five that contain metropolitan areas. As political commentator James Carville once put it, “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and Alabama in the middle.”

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