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Tag: pat toomey

New Poll Shows Strong Support For Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ Plan

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Likely voters in 12 key states strongly back President Joe Biden's proposed $3.5 trillion "Build Back Better" investment plan, according to a new survey from left-leaning polling outfit Data for Progress. The new survey finds majority support for each of its top provisions, even in states whose GOP senators oppose the agenda.

Data for Progress released polling on Tuesday showing that voters in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin support Biden's Build Back Better plan by at least a 15-point margin.

The data showed support for increased taxes on the wealthy and corporations, expanded caregiving infrastructure, investment to curb climate change, and a pathway to citizenship for children brought to the United States illegally as children and other undocumented immigrants working in the country.

Voters in five of the states, all of which could play an important role in upcoming national elections, are represented by at least one Republican senator who has publicly attacked the legislation and voted against the budget resolution that will potentially allow the Senate to pass it by a simple majority. But their attacks do not appear to have swayed constituents.

"Montana families & business owners are feeling the pain of #Bidenflation as prices skyrocket from groceries & gas to cars & housing," Montana Sen. Steve Daines tweeted on Friday. "Yet Democrats are still planning another massive tax & spending spree that will only make things worse. It's reckless."

But Montana's likely voters back the $3.5 trillion plan 56 percent - 41 percent. They support its investments in long-term care (77 percent - 19 percent), expanded Medicare coverage (75 percent - 22 percent), tax cuts for families (60 percent -34 percent), child care (59 percent- 36 percent), universal pre-K (57 percent - 39 percent), paid leave (55 percent -22 percent), and clean energy (51 percent -45 percent).

They also back increasing taxes on wealthy Americans (64 percent - 34 percent) and corporations (57 percent - 42 percent) and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants (62 % - 35 percent).

Support for the plan was even higher in the other 11 states surveyed.

West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito tweeted, "The Democrats' reckless tax and spending spree will ultimately be paid for by the middle-class Americans they pretend to be protecting."

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey decried it as "massively excess spending" that would combine with inflation in "a recipe for serious problems."

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina tweeted, "President Biden and Democrats are pushing a $3.5 trillion tax and spending spree that provides amnesty to millions while doing nothing to secure our border. Hard to imagine it getting even worse at the border, but their policies will encourage more illegal immigration."

And Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin tweeted, "The Democrats proposed $5.5 TRILLION tax & spending spree is reckless. You tax success, you're going to get less of it. We can't tax our way out of this. When will we get serious about controlling out-of-control spending?"

The legislation condemned by the GOP lawmakers is also highly popular among constituents of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Democrats who have expressed some concern about the plan's price tag.

In addition to the immigration reform provisions, the Build Back Better package would incorporate elements of Biden's American Families Plan such as free community college, free preschool, expanded child tax credits, and paid leave, as well as clean energy and climate provisions from his American Jobs Plan. It would keep Biden's promise to raise taxes only on businesses and those earning more than $400,000 a year.

The recent polling results are consistent with those of earlier surveys that have shown public support for the investments and funding.

Still, every single Republican in Congress has opposed the plan.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

GOP Sen. Toomey Urges Trump To Concede, Cooperate With Biden Transition

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) says President Donald Trump has "exhausted all plausible legal options" as he encouraged the Trump administration to "facilitate the presidential transition process" with President-elect Joe Biden.

Toomey referenced U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann's decision Saturday to dismiss a Trump campaign suit that sought to block the certification of Pennsylvania's election results. In his decision, Brann said the suit "strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations" as it urged the court to give the state legislator legal authority to assign Pennsylvania's electoral votes.

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GOP Sen. Toomey Urges Trump To Cooperate With Biden Transition

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) is calling on his Republican colleagues to cooperate with the administrative transition as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office.

During an interview with Pittsburgh's Action News 4, Toomey acknowledged that Biden has been declared the winner of the election as he stressed the importance of moving forward with the transition of power. Although President Donald Trump has continued to push baseless claims of voter fraud, Toomey believes it is time to focus on beginning the "transition process."

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#EndorseThis: Meghan McCain Admits Trump Has No Chance Of Reelection In 2020

Should Democrats be encouraged by Donald Trump’s tack to the left on gun control? Sure. Even if the POTUS can’t be trusted to do the right thing in any given scenario, any White House wobbling on the NRA can only be helpful right now. It beats the alternative.

But there’s another reason Dems should be thankful for Trump’s change of heart. Without the support of the NRA lobby or red America, his 2020 campaign doesn’t have a bullet to shoot.

In this clip from The View, Meghan McCain destroys Trump for two-timing his most loyal supporters such as conservative gun-pusher Laura Ingraham. McCain agrees with Ingraham’s comment that if The Donald turns on his 2nd Amendment base, he has zero chance of winning reelection. Not to mention there’s a lot of hypocrisy behind the President’s trashing of Senator Pat Toomey as “afraid of the NRA.”

Pot, kettle, black? Click to see Trump get taken down by a McCain yet again.

The Red-State Trend That’s Coming To A Blue State Near You

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

So-called right-to-work laws—which are more accurately described as right-to-work-for-less laws, anti-union laws, or poverty-producing laws—used to be a largely southern phenomenon in the United States. In the 20th century, cities in the northern U.S., from Philadelphia, Boston, New York City, and Baltimore to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee, were considered union towns, while many of the southern states were infamous for their hostility to organized labor. But in the 2010s, “right-to-work” laws have been making considerable progress in northern states. And far-right Republicans like Joe Wilson and Steve King in the House of Representatives have been calling for a right-to-work law to be enacted nationwide.

If a national “right-to-work” law were to be passed in both the House and the Senate (where it could face a Democratic filibuster), President Donald Trump—a supporter of right-to-work legislation—would likely sign it. In that case, all 50 states would become right-to-work states whether they liked it or not. But even without a national right-to-work law, anti-union legislation now prevails in Michigan, Wisconsin, and other states that were once known for strong union protections.

Right-to-work laws gained considerable ground in the southern states 70 years ago, when Congress passed the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 — a.k.a. the Taft-Hartley Act — and overrode a veto from President Harry Truman (who considered the law anti-union). The U.S.’ labor movement had grown considerably under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s and early 1940s—especially in the northern states and the Rust Belt—and Taft-Hartley, which was designed to slow down that growth, allowed individual states to pass right-to-work laws if they wanted them.

Under Taft-Hartley, employees in a right-to-work state could not be compelled to join a union or pay union dues. A pattern began to emerge: Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Arkansas, and North Carolina all became right-to-work-for-less states in 1947, while union representation was much stronger in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New York, Illinois, and other states that didn’t adopt right-to-work laws. So if workers became employed in a unionized shop in Philadelphia or Detroit, for example, it was understood that they would be joining a union, paying union dues, and enjoying all the benefits and advantages that came with unionization.

Although union leaders detested the Taft-Harley law and unsuccessfully fought for its repeal in the 1950s and ’60s, the U.S. on the whole remained heavily unionized during those decades. Around 35% of U.S. workers—slightly more than one-third—were union members in 1954, but in 2012, that number was down to 11.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (among private-sector workers, it was a mere 6.6%). Republicans, in 2012, were delighted to see unions having lost so much ground, and they were especially happy to see a great deal of anti-union activity in what had been traditionally pro-union parts of the country.

Although Barack Obama enjoyed strong union support when he was elected president in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, many far-right Republicans were elected at the federal, local or state levels in 2010 and 2014. One of them was Rick Snyder, who was elected governor of Michigan in 2010 and signed a right-to-work bill into law in that state in 2012. Indiana also became a right-to-work state that year, and in 2015, Wisconsin became a right-to-work state under Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Kentucky and West Virginia—two of the more union-friendly southern states in the past—have also adopted right-to-work laws in recent years, and Missouri, under Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, became a right-to-work state in February.

Nonetheless, some northern states have so far resisted right-to-work laws, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Delaware, Ohio, and the New England states. But if Republicans in Congress, with the help of Trump, succeed in passing a national right-to-work law, it will override any opposition on the part of Democratic governors like Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania or Andrew Cuomo in New York.

During a visit to Johnstown, PA in 2014, Wolf explained why he opposes making Pennsylvania a right-to-work state.

“I don’t really understand the logic behind it,” Wolf said. “In a democratic system, where the majority of workers vote to join a union, I’m not sure what gives a minority the right to say, ‘We’ll take advantage of the benefits of the union, but we’re not going to pay for the cost.’ It’s sort of like me, if I don’t vote for a particular governor, does that give me the right to say I’m not going to pay my taxes but I am going to use the roads and the bridges and things like that? I don’t think so. It seems to me it strikes at the heart of democratic fairness.”

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO has sided with Wolf, saying that so-called right-to-work laws “weaken the best job security protections workers have: the union contract” and that it will oppose any bills that try to make Pennsylvania a right-to-work state. But union-bashing Republicans dominate Pennsylvania’s state legislature, and at the federal level, far-right Sen. Pat Toomey—who narrowly defeated Democrat Katie McGinty in 2016 and was reelected to a second term—is an enthusiastic “right-to-work” supporter. While Philadelphia is controlled by Democrats and has long been a bastion of union activity, Central Pennsylvania (jokingly referred to as Pennsissippi or Pennsyltucky) is full of Republicans who would love to make Pennsylvania a right-to-work state.

The fact that Trump, as filmmaker Michael Moore predicted, won three Rust Belt states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin) a Republican presidential candidate hadn’t won since the 1980s, underscores the inroads Republicans made in the northern U.S. during the Obama era. And many of them have been overtly hostile to unions, from Toomey to Rick Snyder to Scott Walker (who aggressively pushed for a law that in 2011, stripped most of Wisconsin’s public-sector workers of their collective bargaining rights).

Although Ohio has a Republican governor, John Kasich, and went for Trump in 2016, it has yet to become a right-to-work state. But John Boyd, director of labor and legal affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, has been claiming that with Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin having become right-to-work states, Ohio is now at a competitive disadvantage. And when in January, officials in the township of West Chester north of Cincinnati were calling for a local right-to-work law, Boyd noted, “Four out of the five states surrounding Ohio are now right-to-work.” The Ohio AFL-CIO, meanwhile, was vocal in its opposition to the West Chester proposal.

The AFL-CIO has also been attacking proposals to make New Hampshire New England’s first right-to-work state. In January, the GOP-controlled New Hampshire Senate passed a right-to-work bill, which the AFL-CIO, the National Education Association and the Teamsters denounced as “an attack on all working families by special interests seeking to lower wages for everyone and undermine worker protections.” And New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican and right-to-work for less advocate, would have signed it into law. But in February, the bill was defeated in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unionization in New Hampshire has decreased from 11.1% in 2011 to 9.7% in 2015—and the bill, had it passed, would have likely brought that number down even more.

When the AFL-CIO and other critics of right-to-work laws describe them as “right-to-work-for-less” laws, they aren’t merely being rhetorical; research demonstrates that right-to-work promotes inferior working conditions. In 2011, a study by the Economic Policy Institute found that wages in right-to-work states were “3.2% lower than those in non-RTW states” and that the rate of employer-sponsored health insurance was “2.6 percentage points lower in RTW states compared with non-RTW states….If workers in non-RTW states were to receive ESI at this lower rate, 2 million fewer workers nationally would be covered.” The study also found the rate of employer-sponsored pensions to be “4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states.”

Unions, in their 1940s/1950s/1960s heyday, were not only beneficial for union members, they were beneficial across the board because they set high standards in terms of pay, benefits and vacation time. When unionized plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and constructions workers enjoyed positive working conditions, many white-collar professions also tended to have higher standards even if they weren’t typically unionized.

It is no coincidence that as union membership decreased in the U.S. in recent decades, overall conditions have worsened for both blue-collar and white-collar workers.According to Economic Policy Institute research, executives at large companies in the U.S. earned, on average, 296 times as much as their average workers in 2013 compared to only 20 times as much in 1965.

When Rep. Steve King introduced a bill calling for a national right-to-work law in 2015, it was merely symbolic; he knew that even if such a bill passed both houses of Congress and made it to the White House’s executive desk, President Obama would have vetoed it. But Republican proponents of a national right-to-work law now have a more sympathetic figure in Trump, although such a bill would need some Democratic support in the Senate in order to survive a filibuster. Even without a national right-to-work law, Republicans will no doubt continue to attack unions at the state level. Presently, 28 states have right-to-work laws, and the more that number increases, the worse conditions will become for U.S. workers.

Alex Henderson’s work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.

IMAGE: Thousands of protesters gather for a rally on the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week.  Michigan will become the 24th right-to-work state, banning requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

5 Ways Trump And The GOP Are Campaigning Like Losers

Nobody wants to jinx the defeat of the most singular threat to American democracy to ever crawl out of the WWE Hall of Fame. But something is going on.

Early voting hasn’t been uniformly good for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But as tens of millions of voters have been making their way to the polls, the news has been getting progressively better out of the three key early voting battlegrounds — North Carolina, Florida, and Nevada.

If the Democratic nominee sweeps or even picks up two of these three bellwether states, it will be nearly impossible for Donald Trump to become our God Emperor Overlord, or whatever he thinks the president does.

North Carolina’s Republicans have surgically limited early voting sites to make getting a ballot more difficult for students and black voters. But signs still point to a Clinton lead in the state Barack Obama won in 2008 and lost in 2012. Florida was a worry for Democrats as Republicans led the early vote until Friday. But Saturday was the best day for the Clinton campaign, with Miami-Dade county, rich in Latino and left-leaning voters, delivering a 67 percent increase from 2012.

And in Nevada on Friday night, there was a nightmare scene for the right as Latinos waited on line for hours at the Cardenas Market to summon justice upon the man who has smeared them, their families and friends as “rapists and criminals.” They brought their best and if you do the math, as veteran Nevada reporter John Ralston does every election year, you might see that the chances of Trump winning the state “are about the same as Billy Bush anchoring the CBS Evening News.”

The Atlantic‘s Ronald Brownstein suggests that the focus on these states outside of Democrats’ “blue wall” may have “overestimated her hold on the states most central to her strategy.” But the seeming effectiveness of her ground game — which towers over her opponents’ Twitter plan of having people in red hats gathering to join their leader in yelling at the press — should allow a little optimism.

How much?

Well, are you a Bill, a Nate, a Nate, a Drew or a Sam?

Trump campaign mascot and conservative radio host Bill Mitchell is still preaching the Trump gospel that only the polls that show the Republican nominee winning can be correct. FiveThirtyEight‘s Nate Silver, the savior of Democratic nerves in 2012, isn’t willing to be your salve this time, after missing the rise of Trump in the GOP primary; he’s saying Clinton has a lead in the race but it’s “tenuous” at best, with a 60-70 percent chance of making history. The Upshot‘s Nate Cohn sees a “solid lead” for Clinton and an “unclear” map for Trump. Thus his paper’s model suggests Democrats’ hopes are in the mid 80s. Daily Kos Elections‘  Drew Linzer isn’t as well known as his modeling colleagues, but he was the most accurate forecaster in both 2012 and 2014. His model gives Clinton nearly a 90 precent chance of capturing the White House.

And then there’s Princeton Election Consortium’s Sam Wang, the man who can soothe any Clinton-backing nervous wrecks enough so they can join some “Get Out the Vote” operations. Wang has Clinton’s chances of carrying at least 270 electoral votes at almost 100 percent.

There’s still plenty to worry about, including the unprecedented way the FBI intervened in this election, which rocked the polls and hurt Democrats’ chances of taking the Senate and thus America’s chances of having a functioning Supreme Court.

As a member of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle told Newsweek, “You don’t overthrow 5,000 years of patriarchy without a fight.” But the most positive signs for Democrats may be the manner in which the GOP and Trump are campaigning.

Here are five ways Republicans and their nominee seem to be telegraphing a defeat on November 8.

  1. Back to building doubt in the system.
    Trump was jubilant over FBI Director James Comey’s intervention in the race for a few days, but the images of Latinos lining up to vote has shaken him back to reality. He sees voters being allowed to vote because they arrived in line before the polls closed as “rigged,” though it’s standard procedure. There are signs such rhetoric depresses his own supporters and possibly GOP turnout. To start “whining before the game’s over,” as President Obama calls it, sounds like you’re preparing to lose.
  2. Preparing a post-defeat game plan.
    Republicans have already started talking about Clinton’s impeachment, which is both ridiculously contemptuous of the voters’ will and also a sign that they expect her to win. Trump’s warnings of an “unprecedented Constitutional crisis” should he lose aren’t just fortune telling — it’s a preview of how his campaign to delegitimize his opponent and our democracy will continue after Election Day.
  3. Trump campaigning pretty much everywhere.
    The Clinton campaign’s surprise visits to Michigan — which Democrats have carried in presidential elections since 1992 — could hint at anxiety in holding a key state. But at least there’s some semblance of a strategy — activating black voters and improving her party’s down-ballot prospects. “Clinton has strategy and data,” Democratic strategist Reed Galen tweeted. “Trump has an airplane.” His travel schedule has him flying all around the country and back into the same states twice, canceling a visit to Wisconsin while hitting Minnesota, a state he has little-to-no chance of winning. These are the tactics of a man who sees no clear path to victory — or just doesn’t want to pay his pollsters. The campaign’s goal, Trump insiders have suggested, is to beat Mitt Romney’s total in 2012, not Hillary Clinton’s in 2016. When you’re trying to be the better loser, you’re still a loser.
  4. Down-ballot ticket-splitting strategy.
    One of the most effective Republican Senate campaigns of the year has been waged by Ohio’s Rob Portman and it was born out of a realization that Trump could lose the state. He’s spent the last year cultivating voters who back him and either major party nominee. This is an ominous sign, given Ohio is one of Trump’s best chances of picking up a state Obama won twice. And even worse for Trump is that ticket-splitting also has become the strategy of Pennsylvania’s GOP Senator Pat Toomey. If Trump can’t win the Keystone State, he probably won’t be president.
  5. Intimidating voters.
    If you have to stop people from voting in order to win, you’ve probably already lost. A federal judge issued a restraining order against the Trump campaign for what’s been called “voter intimidation.” And, of course, the Trump campaign appealed the decision. Intimidating citizens from exercising their right to vote, it seems, is their final hope.

IMAGE: U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Wilmington, Ohio, U.S. November 4,  2016.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

In Pennsylvania Senate Race, Unfamiliar Battle Lines On Gun Rights

PHILADELPHIA, Sept 16 (Reuters) – As he seeks re-election to his U.S. Senate seat this November, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey can make an unusual claim. He is the sole Republican nationwide running with the endorsement of top U.S. gun control advocates Gabby Giffords and Michael Bloomberg.

That pair of endorsements could give the first-term senator an edge over Democratic challenger Katie McGinty, a former environmental official in the White House and the Pennsylvania governor’s office. The race is one of a handful of close contests on Nov. 8 that could determine whether Republicans, currently with a 54-46 majority, maintain control of the Senate.

Both candidates are targeting educated moderate voters, particularly in the Philadelphia suburbs, many of whom may be turned off by the rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to political analysts in Pennsylvania.

McGinty, who calls her support of gun control measures stronger than Toomey’s, is working hard to dismiss his endorsements from Giffords and Bloomberg, and has touted her own endorsement by a Pennsylvania anti-gun violence group.

Giffords, considered a hero by many gun control advocates, is a Democratic former U.S. congresswoman from Arizona who survived being shot in a 2011 assassination attempt and has become an activist for gun restrictions. Bloomberg is the billionaire former New York City mayor who considered a run for the presidency this year and, since leaving office, has focused much of his energy on gun control.

McGinty has called Toomey’s commitment to gun safety “paper thin” and notes that the Republican incumbent received an “A” rating from the influential National Rifle Association gun rights lobbying group during his first Senate run in 2010.

The issue of gun rights is potent in a nation where the right to “keep and bear arms” is enshrined in Constitution’s Second Amendment. The NRA opposes candidates who support gun control efforts including restricting the types of firearms people can own or expanding background checks required for gun buyers. Many Republicans side with the NRA, while many Democrats support gun control.

Opinion polls show Toomey’s race as virtually tied, even as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leads Trump by several percentage points in a state that has voted Democratic in the past six presidential contests, starting in 1992.

Pennsylvania is home both to rural communities where hunting is a popular pastime and big cities including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh where crime and gun violence are major concerns. Shifting attitudes on guns in the state have emboldened both parties in Pennsylvania to distance themselves from the NRA’s stance opposing almost any effort to restrict gun rights.

The state’s law mandating background checks for private handgun sales already goes beyond federal law, said Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania has a very substantial hunting and fishing culture,” Madonna said. “But hunters aren’t opposed to that.”

‘HARD THING TO DO’

Toomey’s position on guns sets him apart from most of his Republican U.S. Senate counterparts, as he tries to attract moderates while keeping conservative voters in his column.

In a telephone interview, Toomey said the Giffords and Bloomberg endorsements recognized “that what I did was a very hard thing to do politically.” He also emphasized his belief that most gun owners share his position.

“I’m a strong Second Amendment supporter,” Toomey said. “I see no contradiction between that support and insisting on background checks, so that people who’ve got no right to the Second Amendment because they’re dangerous criminals or they’re dangerously mentally ill or they’re terrorists, should be denied a firearm any way we can.”

Giffords has also endorsed Ohio Senator Mark Kirk, another Republican running for re-election, though Bloomberg has not weighed in on that race.

In an email, McGinty told Reuters Toomey is “no moderate” when it comes to gun violence.

“Time and again, he has sided with the gun lobby instead of doing what’s right to keep communities safe,” McGinty said. “Pat Toomey has completely run away from legislation to expand background checks, since it failed to pass the Senate three years ago.”

Toomey made headlines in 2013 following an elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, when he and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia introduced legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers nationwide.

That legislation, fiercely opposed by the NRA, failed in the Senate, but Toomey gained praise from Democrats for bucking the majority of his party.

He voted for a similar bill after the mass shooting last year in San Bernardino, California, and supported Republican-backed legislation in Congress this year following the Orlando nightclub shooting to restrict access to firearms for people on official “terrorism watch lists.”

McGinty backed a stricter Democratic-backed version. None of the measures passed.

McGinty, who called Toomey’s gun control positions weak, favors more sweeping restrictions such as bans on military-style “assault weapons” and high-capacity ammunition clips that Toomey opposes.

In a recent television ad, McGinty used a clip of Toomey telling voters this summer that he had a “perfect record” with the NRA. The NRA has not yet released ratings or issued an endorsement in the race.

Toomey called McGinty a “political opportunist” and again pointed to his support from Giffords and Bloomberg.

“The idea that somehow they’ve all got it wrong and Katie McGinty, my opponent, has it right is just laughable,” he said. (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Will Dunham)

Photo: U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) speaks to the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference meeting in Washington DC, U.S. February 10, 2011.   REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo

Pennsylvania’s Senate Democratic Primary Pitts The Party Against Itself

Joe Sestak is a former three star admiral, a two term congressman, and a one time Senate candidate who came within two points of defeating Sen. Pat Toomey in 2010, a tough, tough year for Democrats.

Yet his own party and aligned outside groups are spending millions of dollars to derail his bid to be the Democratic nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania.

Voters in the state are heading to the polls today in a fiercely contested Senate primary race. Pennsylvania is one of six key states — along with New Hampshire, Illinois, Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin — for Democrats as the party plots to take back the Senate.

The Democratic establishment wants Pennsylvanians behind Katie McGinty, a former chief of staff to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf who hasn’t held elected office herself. She’s received support from the party’s Senate campaign committee and an endorsement from the president.

“D.C. Democratic money is now used without asking donors whether it can be contrary to the original purpose of the contribution: not against Republicans, but against another Democrat,” Sestak wrote in an email to supporters last week.

This all started in 2010. That’s when 64-year-old then-Congressman Sestak, after two victories in the normally Republican-leaning 7th Congressional District, ran his first race for the Senate Democratic nomination. After Sestak began his campaign, incumbent Republican senator Arland Specter switched parties, running for re-election as a Democrat and quickly earning the support of the state party infrastructure.

Sestak, mostly thanks to a top-notch ground game, managed to win the nomination without the support of the Democratic establishment. He narrowly lost to Pat Toomey in the general election, a seat the party believed could have been won had Specter been their candidate.

Sestak, pro-choice, F-rated by the National Rifle Association, top rated by environmentalists, anti-Citizens United, and a one time national security adviser to Hillary Clinton, announced early last year he was running again for the Senate. Politico reported that he had refused to hire a party-approved campaign manager. The DSCC unsuccessfully attempted to recruit five other candidates before finally landing on McGinty.

Sestak is popular in Pennsylvania and led the polls by double digits as late as a month ago. His campaign has pulled in more than $4 million, and a supportive super PAC has a million more.

But McGinty, helped by outside spending totaling close to $4 million, much of it from the DSCC and EMILY’s List, has drawn even according to the latest polls. Monmouth University have the pair dead even at 39 percent, while the Republican-leaning Harper Polling put McGinty six points ahead.

There is a third candidate: Braddock, PA mayor John Fetterman. Most often profiled as the 6’8, tattooed, bald-headed, bushy-bearded Harvard graduate, the Bernie Sanders supporter is expected to pick up a respectable 10 percent of the vote.

Sestak’s supporters worry that Fetterman will pick off independent, anti-establishment voters that may have otherwise voted for the former admiral.

Meanwhile, incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey watches on, cradling a $9.1 million general election war chest that will grow with time.

If Sestak wins the primary, the party establishment will have to park their dislike of the candidate in some dark D.C corner. No matter their nominee, Democrats need Pennsylvania, along with another four of the six target states, if they are to take back the Senate.

Photo: Joe Sestak in 2009. Wikimedia Commons.