Here’s the latest news today out of Pennsylvania:
Sen. Pat Toomey has decided not to run for reelection or for governor of Pennsylvania in 2022, according to two people familiar with his plans, a surprise decision by the Republican with significant implications for the state’s next elections.He will serve out his current Senate term but won’t run for either of those offices, seemingly ending his career in elected office, at least for now. A formal announcement is expected Monday.
Toomey’s office on Sunday neither confirmed nor denied the senator’s plans. The people familiar with his plans spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
One of the worst-kept secrets in Pennsylvania politics is that Sen. Pat Toomey is considering a run for governor in 2022.So when the Republican rolled out a plan Thursday to reopen Pennsylvania’s economy, and do it more quickly, in many cases, than Gov. Tom Wolf has planned, it renewed speculation about Toomey’s intentions. Four Pennsylvania GOP insiders who spoke to The Inquirer all saw it as an attempt from the senator to show how he would lead as an executive as he weighed in on a critical issue that has raised the profiles of governors across the country.
“It was a pretty clear smoke signal” that Toomey is thinking about a bid for the statehouse, said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist based in Harrisburg, though he, like everyone else interviewed, added that he didn’t believe any decision has been made.
And he was trying to give his potential 2022 gubernatorial opponent, Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D. PA), a run for his money by backing his opponent:
Heather Heidelbaugh wants to deny Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro a second term. It’s an expensive and challenging proposition.But the little-known Pittsburgh lawyer is getting some valuable help from allies of Sen. Pat Toomey — whom political watchers in both parties see as on a likely collision course with Shapiro in the 2022 governor’s race.While the presidential election consumes voters’ attention, political insiders see the under-the-radar contest for attorney general as a potent prelude to a race that will be very much the center of attention in two years. That subplot played out Monday when a new group started airing digital ads critical of spending by the Attorney General’s Office under Shapiro. Toomey is indirectly helping the group.Toomey has committed to raising significant amounts of money for the Republican Attorneys General Association, in anticipation that it will spend big to support Heidelbaugh, according to two Republican campaign consultants familiar with Toomey’s thinking. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Toomey’s plans.
But the truth is that both Wolf and Shapiro are popular in Pennsylvania and Toomey’s devout loyalty to Trump tarnished his image royally. He’s morphed himself from a die hard Tea Party Republican aimed at purging the party of moderates like Arlen Specter for not being fiscally conservative enough to having to brag about working with Democrats on writing a background checks bill that failed to pass. He also needed clips of President Obama praising his work on the background checks bill for a campaign ad in his tight re-election bid against Katie McGinty (D. PA) in 2016. He also refused to say if he endorsed Trump until election day where he outperformed Trump.
It says a lot that Toomey is passing on a run in 2022. If Biden wins the election, 2022 would be a midterm election where Republicans could make gains. But the GOP may have tarnished itself so badly that even midterm elections may not be their path back. We will see. Plus, Pennsylvania has shown that it can buck the GOP trend in midterm elections when a Democrat is in the White House. Wolf proved that in 2014 when he took down Tom Corbett (R. PA). It’s clear Toomey saw the writing on the wall.
The uncertainty came as both campaigns have been lavishing attention on the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania.Biden this week took a chartered Amtrak tour through Western Pennsylvania, where he hopes to chip away at Trump’s support among rural and white working-class voters. Biden’s campaign events were socially distanced but included some of the largest crowds he’s seen since the pandemic began. His campaign was set to begin going door to door for the first time since then — something the Trump campaign has been doing for months.Trump has held several large, mostly outdoor rallies in Pennsylvania over the last couple of months, where hundreds and sometimes thousands of supporters gather in close quarters — many without face masks, which Trump has often shunned. He was in Harrisburg for one rally on Saturday, and had been scheduled to appear in Philadelphia on Sunday before he tested positive.It remains to be seen how Trump’s testing positive for a virus that has already hobbled him politically will affect the race between him and Biden, who has built a consistent and sizable lead in Pennsylvania and in national polls. And voting is already underway in Pennsylvania, with counties sending voters mail ballots. Philadelphia and other counties are also opening new elections offices where voters can request and submit mail ballots on the spot.
Biden is backed by 51 percent of likely voters in Pennsylvania, a 7-point lead over Trump’s 44 percent, based on the poll, which was conducted after last week’s presidential debate.
Biden’s lead over Trump in the key battleground state ticked up 1 point since a similar poll conducted in August that found Biden leading by a 49 to 43 percent margin.
The New Yorker gave us a look into the Democrats strategy to flip Pennsylvania for Biden a few weeks back:
Over the weekend, I spoke with Brendan McPhillips, the Biden campaign’s state director in Pennsylvania, and Sinceré Harris, a senior adviser to the state campaign. In a Presidential race, where message and policy are set from national headquarters, the operatives who run a state are often veterans of field work (as McPhillips is) and their focus is on the blunt work of turnout, vote counting, and matching volunteers and staffers to particular voters who might need a nudge. Both McPhillips and Harris worked on the Clinton campaign in 2016, and though they were circumspect about their views on its strategies, they emphasized that they had planned a much more intense program of voter outreach in the small cities and towns that had shifted to Trump.
“I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that Democrats need to do what they need to do in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and then Pennsylvania’s done—well, that’s clearly no longer the case,” McPhillips said. One of the campaign’s talking points has been how little Trump’s Presidency has done to improve the material well-being of the voters who swung to him in 2016. McPhillips said that his operation was organizing all sixty-seven counties in the state; the campaign pointed out that it is holding weekly (Zoom) organizing meetings with members of growing communities of color in blue-collar cities like Erie, and in the Lehigh Valley. (Some of those communities are very small.) The hope, McPhillips said, was that Biden’s presence on the ballot and their outreach could persuade some ex-Democrats to “come back home to the Democratic Party.” There were counties in Pennsylvania, McPhillips went on, where shrinking a Clinton loss by twenty-five points to a Biden loss by twenty might make a big difference.
The Democrats might be able to get away with margins like that because of the swing that has taken place in Pennsylvania’s suburbs, particularly in the mostly prosperous belt around Philadelphia—Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. Harris told me that, from her view, the political transformation of these places was more durable than it might at first appear. “Women have been super-energized since Trump’s reëlection—it wasn’t just in 2018,” Harris said. In 2017, Democrats won control of the Delaware County legislature for the first time since the Civil War; in 2018, they flipped four suburban congressional seats; in 2019, they took control of the Bucks County board of commissioners for the first time since 1983. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s wrapup of last year’s election results was headlined “The Blue Wave Crashed Down on Pennsylvania Again.”