PITTSBURGH — Hillary Clinton turned her attention to a critical down-ballot contest that could help determine control of the Senate, sharply criticizing the incumbent Republican senator for failing to distance himself from Donald Trump.
It was the first time Clinton has devoted a substantial portion of her stump speech to not only boosting the Democratic candidate, in this case Katie McGinty, but also attacking her Republican opponent, Sen. Pat Toomey.
And it marks a shift in the campaign’s focus toward helping Democrats regain control of the Senate, as they grow more confident in her prospects at the top of the ticket.
“He still refuses to stand up to Donald Trump,” Clinton said of Toomey.
“Pat Toomey heard Donald attack a grieving Gold Star family who lost a son in Iraq. He heard Donald call Mexican immigrants rapists. He heard him say terrible things about women. He heard him spread the lie that our first black president wasn’t really born in America.”
“Now, how much more does Pat Toomey need to hear?” Clinton asked.
For most of the campaign, Clinton has sought to characterize Trump as a candidate who is not a typical Republican, as part of an effort to attract more support from disaffected Republican or Independent voters.
But increasingly, as Trump has been mired in controversy, Democrats are hoping to use it as a weapon in down-ballot fights — especially in competitive races like McGinty’s. Toomey and McGinty are locked in a virtual tie, according to aggregators of recent polling in that race.
Clinton referred to Trump and Toomey as a pair in her riffs against the Republican presidential nominee’s tax plan, even while she noted that McGinty, like the Democratic presidential ticket, “believes our economy should work for everyone not just those at the top.”
But Clinton still threaded a needle Saturday, noting that while Toomey has not stood up against Trump, other Republicans have. “A lot of Republicans have,” stood up to Trump, Clinton said. “They have had the grit and the guts to stand up and say he does not represent me.”
“If he doesn’t have the courage to stand up to Donald Trump after all of this, then can you be sure that he’ll stand up for you when it counts?” Clinton said of Toomey.
In a statement, a spokesman for Toomey painted the Republican as an “independent” voice in the Senate. “Today is just further proof that hyperpartisan, ethically challenged Katie McGinty will be a rubber stamp for everything Hillary Clinton wants to do in Washington,” said spokesman Ted Kwong.
“Pat Toomey has been, and will continue to be, an independent leader in the Senate on issues ranging from gun safety to ending Wall Street bailouts.”
Clinton was to appear with McGinty later Saturday in Philadelphia.
She urged the crowd of roughly 1,800 packed into a gymnasium at Taylor Allderdice High School to send McGinty to the Senate to help advance her agenda, if elected. “We have got to get things done for the people of Pennsylvania and America, and Katie will help us break through the gridlock, actually make a difference in people’s lives,” Clinton said.
Elsewhere, Hillary Clinton is pouring $1 million into Indiana and Missouri in the campaign’s final weeks, not because she thinks she can carry those reliably Republican states, but because she believes, with an extra push, Democrats can win Senate and governor’s races there.
In parts of Maine, Nebraska, Virginia and other states, Clinton volunteers are touting Democratic congressional candidates in their phone calls and fliers to voters.