WRITTEN BY: RYAN FRASCELLA (@RyanFrascella) & JOHN COLE (@John__Cole)
PHILADELPHIA—Sen. Pat Toomey and Katie McGinty met for the second and final debate at Temple University’s Performing Arts Center on Monday night. The two tackled a wide variety of issues ranging from tax policy to deploying American troops to fight ISIS. The debate was moderated by Jim Gardner from 6ABC, who consistently posed tough questions to both sides. Temple University students also had the opportunity to ask the candidates questions in the form of videos that were played on the debate stage. This is a senate race that is been labeled as the “most expensive in the country,” with many organizations pouring money into the Keystone State, just 15 days away from Election Day. Ryan Frascella and John Cole break down the night’s winners and losers.
Stars of the Debate
Jim Gardner: Gardner earned three stars for his role in keeping the debate on track. Gardner frequently interrupted both candidates to keep them mindful of their time, so he could fit as many questions as possible into a one-hour format. Gardner had strong follow-up questions, including pressing Sen. Toomey on his non-existent endorsement of Republican nominee, Donald Trump. To start the debate, Gardner focused on McGinty, asking how she would respond to Gabby Giffords’ endorsement of Sen. Toomey. Gardner maintained this tough line of questioning by asking about fighting ISIS, and whether or not either of the candidates would commit troops to the Middle East. Referencing an interview with CNBC, Gardner asked about Toomey’s support of eliminating corporate taxes, a position that he refuted on stage tonight.
Katie McGinty’s Attack on Toomey’s Past Business: McGinty earns two stars, for coming out swinging when it came to attacking Sen. Toomey’s involvement with a bank, where he took advantage of a practice that is illegal in 35 states but legal in Pennsylvania, resulting in a foreclosure of members’ loans. McGinty’s personality combined with her heated rhetoric, by describing this behavior as “predatory,” helped her cause among people who aren’t completely sold on either candidate. She aimed to paint Toomey as someone who has deep Wall Street ties, and is in disregard of the interests of the voters in Pennsylvania. This line of attack is something new in recent weeks, as McGinty has sought to steer voters in her direction in a race that is deadlocked in most of the major polls.
Pat Toomey’s Response to 2013 Gun Control Bill: Sen. Toomey received one start for his response to Gardner’s question regarding his bipartisan effort to expand background checks for gun purchases alongside West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. With his answer, Toomey appealed to the more moderate Democratic voting bloc, while still remaining true to his support for the Second Amendment. McGinty fired back alleging that he didn’t take further action on the bill after it was defeated, but Toomey announced on stage that he would re-introduce the bill if he is re-elected. Some Trump supporters in Pennsylvania have voiced their displeasure with Toomey’s efforts on this issue, believing that it is yet another infringement on their Second Amendment rights.
Toomey’s Trump Problem: One of Gardner’s first questions was in regards to Toomey’s refusal to commit to supporting the GOP Nominee. Gardner tried to lead Toomey into giving a definitive answer to the question that McGinty, and more recently Hillary Clinton, have hit him on throughout the election cycle. Toomey refused to say that he would support Donald Trump, instead tiptoeing around proposals that the nominee has supported, such as repealing Obamacare and refusing to commit to a large scale ground operation in the Middle East, citing the “power vacuum” that occurred in the years following the US departure from Iraq. Tonight was definitely the closest instance that Toomey has come to endorsing Trump, but he still remained adamant that he disagreed with him on many issues, and that he doesn’t think people won’t vote for him, just because he withholds an endorsement.
Katie McGinty’s Defense of Abortion: One of the more shocking moments of the debate came when McGinty cited her support for a woman’s right to choose, but then digressed into a story about a family in Southwestern Pennsylvania that she spoke with, that told her about their decision to have an abortion. McGinty tried to appeal to the emotions of voters by mentioning how the family had the room painted, baby furniture purchased, and even a big teddy bear to welcome their new child home. They then found out that the child had a medical condition, and decided to go through with the decision to have an abortion. The way that the answer was conveyed, didn’t score her any points with moderates in general. The answer appeared as if she was justifying the need for an abortion if the child were to be diagnosed with a medical condition prior to birth. This gives fuel to the pro-life crowd, some of whom want to see Roe v. Wade overturned if Trump were to win the presidency. Toomey never pursued an attack on McGinty following this statement, one where he may have been able to solidify support amongst more conservative voters, still wary about his lack of a Trump endorsement.
There wasn’t a clear winner who emerged from the final debate. Toomey appeared more confident in himself, and the legislation that he has passed in Washington over the last six years. McGinty on the other hand seemed to take a page out of Trump’s playbook when she attacked Toomey for being inside Washington for 18 years and not getting anything done, in response to Toomey’s criticism of Obamacare. McGinty’s positive personality continues to help her in contrast to Toomey’s very serious tone that he has embraced for the past two debates. With many polls stating that the race is essentially tied, a sprint to the finish line over the next 14 days is expected, and both campaigns are bracing for a long night come November 8.