- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican locked in a tense re-election battle in Pennsylvania, is now running ads spotlighting disagreements with his party’s presidential nominee Donald Trump and personal praise from the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

In Nevada, congressmen Joe Heck represents the GOP’s only hope for a Senate pickup this cycle, but he wouldn’t even tell a local newspaper this week who he plans to vote for in the presidential race.

And while Republican senators Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona slammed their Democratic opponents this week for standing by Obamacare in the face of soaring premiums, neither of them pointed to Mr. Trump as their flag-bearer for reform.

The floodgates have broken open and GOP incumbents are jumping off the Trump bandwagon, hoping to avoid getting pulled down by the whirlpool of bad polls surrounding the GOP presidential nominee.

That includes backing off attacks on Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Rubio urged his party to stop using Clinton campaign emails published by WikiLeaks as a political cudgel. And last week he unveiled a “Democrats for Marco” coalition, arguing voters will opt for the “best candidate” for Senate no matter who they support at the top of the ticket.

“A growing number of Democrats are voicing their support for Marco,” his campaign website said. “Democrats know how important it is that Marco is re-elected to act as a check and balance in the Senate regardless of who the next President may be.”

SEE ALSO: Hillary Clinton seizes upon ‘nasty woman’ as Trump takes verbal self-destruction to new heights

In Pennsylvania, where Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. Trump by an average of 5 points, Mr. Toomey may need a number of crossover voters to win re-election. So he has tied himself to the Democratic ticket, running an ad with Sen. Tim Kaine, Mrs. Clinton’s running mate, praising the Republican senator’s “seriousness, intellect and civility.”

“It’s an important difference between the candidates: Pat Toomey has shown independence and leadership, while [Democratic challenger] Katie McGinty would be a rubber stamp for Hillary Clinton and the party bosses who hand-picked her for the Senate,” Toomey spokesman Ted Kwong said.

GOP candidates are chafing at the idea of a Clinton presidency while treating it as a distinct possibility, and even Mr. Trump appears to be looking beyond Nov. 8.

He’s given up on formal fundraising and will focus on public events during the last two weeks of the campaign, his finance chairman told The Washington Post. That means the mogul won’t be bringing in big bucks for down-ballot GOP candidates, either, though the Republican National Committee said it is spreading money around.

“The RNC continues to fundraise for the entire GOP ticket,” committee spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump spent valuable campaign time in D.C. touting one of his own achievements — morphing the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue into a luxury hotel that bears his name.

At the same time, Mrs. Clinton celebrated her birthday in Florida by pairing attacks on Mr. Trump with a sales pitch for Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is trailing in his bid to unseat Mr. Rubio.

“One of the best gifts you can give yourselves would be sending Patrick Murphy to the United States Senate,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Over the weekend, she slammed Mr. Toomey in Pittsburgh for failing to disavow Mr. Trump despite the mogul’s strident comments on Mexican immigrants and women.

Yet for his part, Mr. Toomey has mainly focused his attacks on Ms. McGinty and not Mrs. Clinton.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia, said Senate Republicans in many of these swing states have been able to run ahead of Mr. Trump. But if the mogul loses by more than Mitt Romney did in 2012 — about 4 points nationally — “there may be too much of a drag for many of them to survive.”

Mrs. Clinton has a 4-point lead in the latest polling out of New Hampshire, where Mrs. Ayotte is virtually deadlocked with Democratic challenger Maggie Hassan, the sitting governor.

The Republican, who’s positioned herself as an independent voice for Granite Staters, further distanced herself from Mr. Trump after the release of a 2005 “hot-mic” tape featuring the mogul’s lewd remarks about women, saying she could no longer vote for the mogul.

Yet a Monmouth University Poll released Wednesday illustrated Mrs. Ayotte’s new quandary: 29 percent said the Republican senator has been too supportive of Mr. Trump, while 24 percent said she hasn’t been supportive enough.

“Ayotte has untethered herself from Trump and has suffered a backlash from the Republican base for doing so, and been attacked by Democrats as unprincipled and opportunistic,” said Jennifer Duffy, an editor at the Cook Political Report. “I wouldn’t blame her if she is feeling that perhaps it wasn’t worth doing.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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