Pat Toomey, the Republican U.S. Senator almost universally considered the most vulnerable facing the voters in 2016, got a major political boost last week from the legal turmoil that enveloped two Democrats in Pennsylvania statewide offices.
Regarded as two of the strongest candidates Pennsylvania Democrats could field against narrow 2010 winner Toomey, both State Attorney General Kathleen Kane and State Treasurer Rob McCord have suffered enough damage as to now be considered political casualties.
Elected in ’12 as the first woman attorney general in Keystone State history, Kane now stands accused by a grand jury of a variety of crimes. These include perjury, official oppression and obstruction — all of which the grand jury recommend charges against her.
Clinton Democrat Kane also announced in December that she and husband Chris, who runs the family warehousing business and was a major donor to her winning campaign, are filing for divorce. The embattled attorney general has vowed not to resign her office and to fight all charges in court.
McCord, however, announced his resignation last week and admitted that he over-pressured firms doing business with the state to contribute to his eventually unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor last year.
Charges will soon be filed and McCord is almost sure to plead guilty.
"This obviously takes both [Kane and McCord] out of any potential candidacy against Toomey," G. Terry Madonna, director for the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College (Penn.), told Newsmax, "But I still can’t believe the only Democratic prospect at the moment is [former Rep.] Joe Sestak."
Five years ago, as Republicans were sweeping Pennsylvania and the nation in one of their best mid-term election showings in memory, the conservative Toomey edged out arch-liberal Sestak by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent. Sestak, a favorite of the "Moveon.org" faction of his party, has since left little doubt he will seek a match with Toomey in ’16.
"But many Democrats find Sestak aloof and distant," said Madonna, who predicted party leaders might well try to woo another candidate into the race such as State Auditor Eugene DePasquale or Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.
A just completed Public Policy Polling survey
among likely voters statewide showed Toomey defeating Sestak by a margin of 40 percent to 36 percent. Pitted against Shapiro, PPP found, the senator leads by 43 percent to 31 percent, and against Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Toomey leads 42 percent to 35 percent.
PPP also indulged in a bit of fantasy polling by pitting Toomey against MSNBC host Chris Matthews, a native Philadelphian who has lived in the Washington DC area since the 1970’s. Toomey beat Matthews by 42 percent to 38 per cent.
As of last week, Sestak was the lone Democrat actively vying for the Senate nomination, which will be decided in a primary in April of 2016.
"The scandals dealing with Kane and McCord, and a controversial start to the governorship of [Democrat] Tom Wolf has taken the focus off the 2016 race for the Democrats," Lowman Henry, president of the Harrisburg-based Lincoln Institute, told Newsmax, "This has allowed Sen. Toomey to continue building in preparation for a tough re-election bid. Pennsylvania voters have a long history of ticket splitting, and the Republican Party has historically done well statewide — aside from the Presidential race, of course.
So Democrats will need all the stars to align to defeat Sen. Toomey. Right now, however, the stars are colliding."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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