Pat Toomey waited and waited to tell Pennsylvanians what he really thought about Donald Trump, and the choice paid off.
The Republican incumbent was ahead of his Democratic challenger Katie McGinty 48.7 percent to 47.3 percent when the race was called by the Associated Press. His victory in this contentious, expensive race is of great importance for his party, which will hold onto a majority in the Senate.
When final campaign finance figures are released in the coming months, experts believe this race will set records for the US Senate. It’s estimated PAC spending on McGinty and Toomey will have topped $120 million.
Outside groups spent millions and millions for good reason: The race between Toomey and McGinty was considered one of the most important in the country. Experts highlighted it as one of five seats the Republicans needed to protect to keep their Senate advantage and one of five the Democrats needed to steal control of the Senate.
Their race also happened to be one of the closest. From the moment McGinty defeated Joe Sestak and John Fetterman to become the Democratic nominee in April until last week, nobody knew who was going to win. Most polls had McGinty with a narrow lead, but most of those polls were within the margin of error.
Toomey was first elected to the Senate in 2010, riding a hardline GOP wave to a victory against Joe Sestak. He’s followed that trajectory in some ways the last few years. Toomey voted to defund Planned Parenthood last year and joined the rest of the Republican Senate in refusing to hold a hearing for Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
In other ways, he’s been moderate and even been the rare senator to side with Democrats on major issues. Toomey, for instance, pushed for gun control legislation after Sandy Hook. Despite that bill’s failure to pass, his effort gained him the endorsement of former Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and a C rating from the NRA. Last night at Independence Hall, Barack Obama said he gave Toomey credit for his gun control efforts but added that his position rang hollow when he supported Republicans who were anti gun control.
While McGinty had for months the backing of influential members of the Democratic Party — even Barack Obama — her campaign never seemed to gain momentum. She committed several gaffes, including a Pants On Fire claim she was the first member of her family to attend a four-year college and the time she called Toomey an “asshole.”
Toomey had his own troubles during his campaign in deciding what he would do about Trump. In the spring, Toomey wrote that he didn’t like the Republican presidential candidate’s policies and manner, and he routinely made these objections over the coming months.
But Toomey never went so far as to proclaim whether he’d vote for Trump for a long time. Not in the summer. Not in the early part of the fall. Not even Tuesday morning. It wasn’t until nearly 7 p.m., after he cast his vote in the Lehigh Valley, that he finally said he voted for Trump.
That’s right. He kept his views a secret nearly until the very end. But his silence apparently didn’t alienate too many voters. Toomey is a senator for another six years.