Toomey, McGinty square off in de­bate

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Marc Levy

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Repub­li­can U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and Demo­crat Katie McGinty plowed through a fast­paced, fi­nal de­bate Mon­day night, as they shook off ques­tions at times to fo­cus ex­clu­sively on at­tack­ing their op­po­nent in Penn­syl­va­nia’s neck-and-neck race.

The can­di­dates fielded 16 ques­tions in the live, tele­vised hour-long de­bate at Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity that put the can­di­dates’ deep ide­o­log­i­cal di­vide on dis­play. The stri­dent at­tacks also un­der­scored the close­ness of the race.

The first-term Toomey is among the Se­nate’s most en­dan­gered Repub­li­cans, run­ning for re-elec­tion in Demo­cratic-lean­ing Penn­syl­va­nia af­ter com­pil­ing one of the most con­ser­va­tive vot­ing records in Congress.

The GOP is strug­gling to keep its 54-46 Se­nate ma­jor­ity, and the neck-and­neck race could tip con­trol to Democrats.

The two quar­reled over whose side had to pull down a TV ad and who had en­gaged in preda­tory be­hav­ior in busi­ness deal­ings. At times, whole ques­tions went unan­swered while they at­tacked each other. They even squab­bled over a ques­tion about whether months of neg­a­tive cam­paign ads con­trib­ute to a gen­eral sense of dis­trust of and dis­taste for pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment.

“I’m not sure your re­spec­tive an­swers have done much to elim­i­nate dis­trust and dis­taste,” mod­er­a­tor Jim Gard­ner told them.

On a ques­tion about gun con­trol, Toomey said he would be bet­ter than McGinty at find­ing com­pro­mise, while McGinty said she would be bet­ter at lead­ing on the is­sue.

Other times, McGinty tried to paint Toomey as an out-of-touch Wash­ing­ton in­sider, sug­gest­ing that he had missed “some 90 per­cent of the key com­mit­tee hear­ings and meet­ings on our crit­i­cal na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues” and that he had been in Wash­ing­ton for 18 years — six as a se­na­tor — and done noth­ing to im­prove health care ac­cess.

Toomey, who sup­ports re­peal­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law, called McGinty’s claim about miss­ing com­mit­tee hear­ings false, and re­peat­edly sought to paint her as a ha­bit­ual liar. He sev­eral times re­ferred back to her state­ments made on the cam­paign trail that she was the first in her fam­ily to go to col­lege be­fore a news re­port emerged in June that showed an older brother had grad­u­ated from col­lege years ear­lier.

Toomey used that ex­am­ple to tie McGinty to Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton, who McGinty has en­dorsed, cam­paigned with and backed on key pol­icy po­si­tions.

“Maybe it’s Katie McGinty’s prob­lem with the truth that al­lows her to over­look Hil­lary Clin­ton’s chronic lies,” Toomey said.

Mean­while, Toomey stuck to a tightrope of not en­dors­ing GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump, but not dis­avow­ing him, ei­ther. On abor­tion, the talk got tough, as Democrats have sought to use the is­sue against Toomey with mod­er­ate vot­ers in Philadel­phia’s heav­ily pop­u­lated suburbs. Toomey, who op­poses abor­tion rights, and McGinty tried to paint each other as ex­treme.

“You don’t per­form an abor­tion on a baby that’s about to be de­liv­ered, some­one that’s very far along, a 7-pound baby girl kick­ing in her mother’s womb, but Katie McGinty’s per­fectly fine with that,” Toomey said. “There’s no point at which an abor­tion should be un­ac­cept­able for her.”

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