The polling isn’t frequent given that we're over a year away from the 2016 elections, but incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is looking as if he will be in decent shape (for now) to fend off another Democratic challenge from his 2010 opponent, former Rep. Joe Sestak. Recently, Toomey released the first of what will probably be many television ads, but it’s nothing hard-hitting yet. In fact, it highlights a policy initiative that he worked on with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) that helps schools better identify child sex offenders. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette):
Fifteen months before he will face voters in the November 2016 general election, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is airing the first television commercial of his re-election campaign beginning Tuesday.
The Pennsylvania Republican’s ad highlights his efforts to enact legislation designed to make it easier for schools to identify sex offenders among potential employees. Mr. Toomey has co-sponsored a measure with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that would prod school districts to conduct more extensive background checks on employees and volunteers who work with students.
The 30-second commercial includes a narrator’s description of Mr. Toomey’s work on the child predator bill alternating with a woman’s expressions of gratitude to the freshman for his work on the proposal. Initially, it will run in the Pittsburgh market only, but his campaign said it could appear in other areas of the state in the future.
Meanwhile, Sestak was caught inadvertently running over kids at a Fourth of July event.
The race is being described as a must-win for Democrats. Republicans haven’t won Pennsylvania in a presidential election since 1988, and with Hillary as the presumptive nominee; many Democrats are hoping to maximize turnout in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to not only clinch the Keystone State for the Clinton campaign–but boot Toomey as well. Pittsburgh and the Philly suburbs is where elections are decided in the state–and they’re not fertile campaign grounds for conservatives. Yet, the race leans towards Toomey, not only due to the incumbent advantage, but also the fact that PA Democrats “loathe” Sestak. In 2010, many Democrats told then-Rep. Sestak not to challenge the late Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who had just made the Republican-to-Democrat switch, but didn’t listen. Sestak beat Specter in the primary, but lost in the general. Those wounds have reportedly not healed as of late. Nevertheless, in May, Sestak seemed unfazed by the grumblings from members within his own party (Politico):
On paper, the 63-year-old Sestak would seem to be an ideal candidate against Toomey. The retired Navy rear admiral has a strong following among the left and nearly squeaked out a win in the 2010 GOP wave; 2016 is bound to be far more favorable for Pennsylvania Democrats in a presidential year with Hillary Clinton probably on the ticket. But the wounds between Sestak and his party from 2010 are still raw, and Democratic leaders are worried about the former two-term congressman’s unorthodox campaign and whether he can amass an operation that can compete with the well-financed Toomey.
Rather than aggressively raising money this quarter, for instance, Sestak has spent his time walking the 422 miles across the width of the state in what he called an effort to “earn trust” of voters and “walk in their shoes.”
In an interview outside a welding plant here in Eastern Pennsylvania, Sestak didn’t seem too concerned about the skepticism from party honchos and concerns about his go-it-alone approach, though he contended he did give Brady notice before his 2010 run.
“You are talking about Washington, D.C., Democrats?” Sestak said. “Oh, you mean, those people who look at the world from Washington! I think you answered your own question.”
Around the same time, Democrats thought they had a solid alternative to Toomey with Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, but he has declined tossing his hat into the 2016 Senate race.
So far, Toomey is leading Sestak by double-digits in the polls, with only the left-leaning Public Policy Polling poll giving him a four-point advantage. While it was skewed D+9 concerning party identification, there was a nine-point advantage regarding those who consider themselves conservative.
In all, we have a long road ahead until 2016, but things aren’t looking as bad for Toomey.