Clinton and Trump lead in new poll. Sort of.

Published by Chris Potter on .

According to a new poll out today, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are still the presidential frontrunners in Pennsylvania. On the downside, the poll suggests they might only be truly capable of beating each other. 

Today’s survey , furnished by Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University, is a “swing-state” poll, which looks at the battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It shows Mr. Trump with support from 23 percent of Republicans. Fellow outsider Ben Carson trails with 17 percent of the party's backing. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, meanwhile, is the top established candidate in the field: His 12 percent backing edges out businesswoman Cary Fiorina, while easily outpacing the likes of Texas Senator Ted Cruz and the rest of the field, none of whom escape mid-single-digit range.

That’s broadly consistent with polling we reported on earlier this week, and it confirms pollsters’ impressions that Mr. Rubio may be the mainline Republican candidate to keep an eye on.

There’s more churn on the Democratic side. Beset by attacks relating to her email habits as a former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has seen her support among Pennsylvania Democrats drop from 45 percent in mid-August to 36 percent today. Vice President Joe Biden, a Scranton native, appears to be scooping up some of that support -- without even entering the race. 25 percent of Democrats say they’d back him, outpacing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ 19 percent backing.

But both parties’ frontrunners also have the highest negatives among voters as a whole. More than half of Pennsylvania voters view Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton unfavorably. 54 percent of voters said Mr. Trump wasn't trustworthy, while 61 percent said the same of Ms. Clinton. When voters were asked whether the top-tier candidates care "about the needs and problems of people like you," Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump were the only candidates who garnered "no" responses from more than half of those surveyed.

Who would win a clash between these titans? In a head-to-head match up, Clinton “leads” Mr. Trump by 44 to 42 percent, though in a poll with a 3-percentage-point margin of error, that’s a statistical tie. But of the top GOP candidates, Mr. Trump is the only one Ms. Clinton leads: Quinnipiac shows her trailing the other top GOP contenders between 3 and 9 percent.

For Republicans, Mr. Carson would appear to be the strongest candidate, beating all three Dems pollsters named.

For Democrats, the best picture would be a Trump/Biden match-up, which Mr. Biden would win by 10 points. Then again, even Bernie Sanders leads Mr. Trump by 5 points, a general-election result that would presumably portend the final victory of socialsim. And maybe the appearance of four horsemen, as well as one-third of the seas turning to bitter wormwood. 

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,049 Pennsylvania voters, of whom 427 were Republicans and 442 Dems.


Toomey on a roll, with help from bakery

Published by Chris Potter on .

Citigroup. Blue Cross Blue Shield. JP Morgan. They rank among the most powerful economic interests in the world.

Yet in the effort to support Senate Pat Toomey's re-election bid, they have so far proven mere pikers when compared to the political might of … Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe.

As Mr. Toomey gears up for his 2016 race, the Chambersburg Pa.-based bakery -- known in Pennsylvania and beyond for its potato rolls -- ranks ninth among his supporters. Members of the Martin family, which owns the company, have contributed a total of $41,600, according to numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

That has outpaced JP Morgan and Citigroup so far, and edged out such heavy hitters as cable giant Comcast and Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs. And the CRP's numbers understate the family's support: FEC records show the Martins have also contributed to Mr. Toomey's acronym-friendly leadership committee, "Citizens for Prosperity in America Today," or CPAT.

"We feel he understands the issues involving family-owned businesses,” said Julie Martin, who handles public relations and social media for the company. "We think his fiscally conservative mindset helps us keep jobs here, and we like his common-sense approach to the Second Amendment."

Ms. Martin also praised Mr. Toomey's personal touch: “He has come to Martin’s and flat-out looked us in the eyes and said, 'How can government help you do what you're already doing well?' It really felt like he was listening to us and our concerns.”

She allowed that "we may not always agree with everything he does" -- and confessed to some trepidation concerning Mr. Toomey’s previous foray into expanding background checks on firearm purchases. "We weren't exactly sure what that was going to look like."

Indeed, that proposal has already proved a bit of a stumbling block for Mr. Toomey's campaign: Democrat Katie McGinty raised it just yesterday. But Ms. Martin said she didn't expect the gun issue to be much of a concern for her family going forward:

"After meeting and understanding what he was going for, it did make a little more sense," though she decilned to discuss specifics. 

Mr. Toomey isn't the only recipient of the Martin family's dough. FEC records show that since 2004, the Martins have backed conservatives including Rick Santorum, Sam Brownbeck and Michele Bachmann, as well as the National Rifle Association, as well as a political committee tied to the American Bakers Association ("the voice of the wholesale baking industry").

One family member has backed a committee supporting presidential candidate Ben Carson, though Julie Martin, for one, said she was "still undecided" among a list of three presidential contenders. Family members "don't always agree" on politics, she added, though, "We come down on God, country, and taking care of jobs here."

Mr. Toomey doesn't lack for support from larger businesses, and the Martin family's role as contributor may shrink as the campaign wends on: The Pastry Shoppe has actually fallen from the 6th-place spot it held among Mr. Toomey's supporters last month. Far and away Mr. Toomey's largest supporter is the Club for Growth, a pro-business non-profit that Mr. Toomey once headed. Individuals tied to Club for Growth have given Mr. Toomey just under $170,000 -- roughly quadruple what the Martins have provided.

Then again, Mr. Toomey is among the top recipients of small-dollar contributions so far this election cycle, suggesting he has the ability to draw both from Wall Street and a Main Street business -- one that literally started in a family garage.

"Senator Toomey has earned the support of people from across the entire political spectrum," said his campaign last week.


UPDATED: McGinty pushes Toomey to bring back gun control bill

Published by Mike Pound on .

Leanne DiLorenzo, 48, leaves flowers at a memorial outside Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, October 3, 2015. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)Leanne DiLorenzo, 48, leaves flowers at a memorial outside Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, October 3, 2015. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Just days after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, Katie McGinty is continuing her pressure on Sen. Pat Toomey to reintroduce gun control legislation that was defeated in the Senate three years ago.

Ms. McGinty, the former chief of staff for Gov. Tom Wolf and one of three seeking the Democratic nod to run against the incumbent Republican senator, sent a letter today to Mr. Toomey, asking that the senator reintroduce 2013 legislation that would have expanded requirements for background checks for all commerical gun purchases. That amendment, which Mr. Toomey wrote with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was defeated 54-46.

"I know that passing meaningful legislation takes time and repeated, persistent effort," Ms. McGinty wrote in the letter. "It can be a frustrating and disappointing exercise. But I also know that if you are truly committed to doing the right thing – and you truly believe in your efforts – you do not let failure deter you. You keep on trying until you secure the votes needed to pass the legislation."

Ms. McGinty's campaign manager hammered Mr. Toomey on the legislation last month, after a gun-rights group called off a demonstration at Toomey offices across the state because its leadership had "received positive responses to our request that the Toomey-Manchin anti-gun legislation or any similar bills not be reintroduced. The statement from the group, Pennsylvanians for Self-Protection, prompted Mike Mikus to say that Mr. Toomey "was caught red-handed telling certain groups one thing, and telling Pennsylvanians something completely different."

But a Toomey spokeswoman told the Post-Gazette at the time that while a staffer had met with the gun-rights group, the senator had not ruled out reintroducing background checks legislation.

"Sen. Toomey is 100 percent committed to expanding background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,'' Elizabeth Anderson, Mr. Toomey's communications director, said in an email. "He is open to supporting any legislative effort that accomplishes that goal, including the reintroduction of the Manchin-Toomey bill.''

And after the Charleston church shooting in June, Mr. Toomey told the Washington Post he was looking for a viable way to resurrect the legislation with Mr. Mangin: "What I'm trying to figure out is, is there something that could get the support of the 60 votes that we would need in the Senate. Joe Manchin was and is a great partner and someone I will continue to work with, and I'm open to exploring what is possible."

UPDATED, 10 a.m., Oct. 6:

This morning we recieved the following statement from Steve Kelly, press secretary for Mr. Toomey's re-election campaign: "We welcome Katie McGinty's support of the Toomey-Manchin background checks legislation. If she really wanted to be helpful, she would turn her attention to those who oppose the bill, including her fellow Democrats, rather than trying to concoct far-fetched political attacks against the bill's sponsor, Pat Toomey."


Pizza, pirogies on the line for Sens. Toomey, Kirk

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

Pedro Florimon scores the game winner against the Cubs at PNC Park on Sept. 15. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

As if pennant race pressure isn't enough, pizza and pierogies will be on the line, too when Garrit Cole takes the pitcher's mound for Wednesday's National League Wild Card game against the Chicago Cubs.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has a wager with his Illinois Republican colleague Mark Kirk.

If the Bucs win, Mr. Toomey will dine on two Chicago delicacies courtesy of Mr. Kirk: Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza and Goose Island's 312 beer. If the Pirates lose, he'll have to deliver Iron City Beer and dinner from Pierogi Plus of McKees Rocks to Mr. Kirk.

In addition, the losing senator must model the winning team's t-shirt on social media.

The wager came with a bit of trash talk between the senators, friends who usually find themselves on the same sides of a battle. They're currently working together to get the Senate to pass their bill to keep economic sanctions in place until Iran pays $43 billion in compensation to American victims of terrorism.

This morning's banter took a much lighter tone.

"After another outstanding season, Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, and the Bucs are about the make the Cubs walk the plank," Mr. Toomey said. "Chicago has gone 107 years without making the World Series, and in a few days, my friend Mark will see that number go up to 108. Throughout Buc Nation, we will be raising the Jolly Roger come Wednesday night."

Mr. Kirk didn't take kindly to that.

"With Joe Maddon as manger and star players like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, the Cubs have been baseball's most exciting team this year, and I look forward to seeing them get past the Pirates," Mr. Kirk said. "I'm confident that with Jake Arrieta on the mound for the Cubs, I won't be handing over any Lou Malnati's deep dish or 312 beer to Pat next week."


Report: Fetterman has some friends on the inside

Published by Chris Potter on .

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In the field of Democrats vying for the nomination in next year’s Senate race, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman -- all tattooed 6-foot-8 of him -- is pretty much the portrait of a "political outsider." But a report on an online news site suggests Mr. Fetterman has a bit of an inside game as well.

Capitolwire, a political site focused on state-level politics, reported today that Mr. Fetterman has made use of his friendship with Allyson Schwartz, a former Philadelphia-area congresswoman who Mr. Fetterman supported for governor in 2014. He was, in fact, among Ms. Schwartz’s few western Pennsylvania allies.

Or as Capitolwire pithily put it, “Fetterman, who is running an ‘outsider’ campaign, has ties to Schwartz, a consummate Washington insider.” (We’d provide a link, but it’s subscription-only.) And Mr. Fetterman rented email lists from Ms. Schwartz in a bid to scare up some financial support from her donors.

“I was inspired by Allyson's message, and now I’m running for U.S. Senate,” Mr. Fetterman said in the e-mail his campaign sent to Schwartz backers this week.

The story comes out a day after a conservative group posted footage of Mr. Fetterman suggesting another Democrat in the race, Katie McGinty, was the pick of party leaders. And indeed, Ms. McGinty has racked up a string of endorsements from Democratic officials, starting with Gov. Tom Wolf. But obviously Mr. Fetterman has a some big-name backing too … and Ms. Schwartz and Ms. McGinty competed in the 2014 gubernatorial race. 

As reported here earlier this week, Mr. Fetterman’s bid may be more sophisticated than you might expect from a candidate who has never run for an office above the borough level. He has, after all, hired a top-flight political consultant to manage his campaign. Tapping the network of an ally in Philadelphia, where Mr. Fetterman is less well-known, seems savvy too.

“Using Allyson’s list is a no-brainer,” said Mr. Fetterman in an interview. He touted her “record of accomplishment,” including her work to establishe the CHIP health-insurance program for kids in low-income families. “I see that pay dividends every day in my community,” he said. “She epitomizes the best of political pragmatism.”

But! Are you worried Mr. Fetterman’s inside connections might somehow get the better of him?

“I’m the mayor of Braddock," he said. “If you think I’m an insider, you’re probably smoking something. And you should vote for me too, because I want to make that legal.”