By Andrew Bair
Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey kicked off his reelection bid this week in what many believe will be one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races of the 2016 cycle. Toomey is likely to face former Congressman Joe Sestak, who he defeated in 2010, or Katie McGinty, a former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and most recently chief of staff to Governor Tom Wolf.
Toomey is well known among pro-life advocates in Pennsylvania since his challenge to pro-abortion Senator Arlen Specter in the 2004 Republican primary. In that race, Toomey made the contrast between his and his opponent’s position on abortion a focal point. He ultimately lost by less than 20,000 votes.
In his first term in the Senate, Toomey earned a 100% pro-life rating from the National Right to Life Committee. Key scored votes include limiting funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, blocking Obama abortion mandates, and repealing and blocking funding for Obamacare. He is also a cosponsor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would protect unborn babies 20 weeks and older from painful late abortions.
By contrast, both of Toomey’s potential opponents support abortion on demand and oppose legal protection for unborn children. While serving in Congress, Joe Sestak earned a 0% rating from National Right to Life. He voted for Obamacare, continued federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and opposed the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would have ensured parental notification when a minor crosses state lines seeking abortion.
Katie McGinty is endorsed by EMILY’s List, the radical pro-abortion PAC that only backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion without limits. As EMILY’s List notes on their website, “Katie is pro-choice, and supports Roe v. Wade.”
The latest Franklin and Marshall poll shows Toomey holding solid leads over both pro-abortion Democrats. Even though he only defeated Sestak by two points in 2010, he leads by a 12 point margin in a rematch, 41%-29%. Against McGinty, Toomey leads by 7 points, 35%-28%.
The Rothenburg and Gonzalez Political Report currently rates the Pennsylvania Senate race: Tilts Republican. Despite Toomey’s current lead in the polls, Pennsylvania’s trend toward Democrats in presidential election years is a cause for concern for his reelection prospects. A Republican presidential candidate has not won Pennsylvania since George H.W. Bush in 1988. Toomey may likely have to rely on split-ticket voting to secure a second term in the Senate.
Democrats need five seats to retake the Senate in 2016. Besides Pennsylvania, many Democratic strategists view their best opportunities to be in Illinois, Florida, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Republicans are working to defend those seats while building a firewall by flipping Sen. Michael Bennet’s seat in Colorado and the open-seat in Nevada.