Politics

McCain Attends Re-election Rally — in Pennsylvania

The senator from Arizona took the unusual step of helping a colleague even with his own race to worry about

Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., left, and John McCain, R-Ariz., attend a campaign event for Toomey at the Herbert W. Best VFW Post 928 in Folsom, Pa., September 23, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

FOLSOM, Pa. — John McCain acted a candidate seeking re-election. He posed for pictures, told jokes during his speech, and urged everyone to vote. 

Except the senator from Arizona wasn't campaigning in his home state — he was 2,000 miles away, in a working-class town near Philadelphia.  The small rally at this local Veterans of Foreign Wars post wasn't about him — it was for Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey. 

"We need, not just for the people of Pennsylvania, but for the people of the Arizona, this man back working in the United States Senate," McCain told the audience of a few dozen supporters, urging them to back his colleague.

"As you know, I'm running for re-election," McCain said later. "And I'm here for Pat Toomey because it's critical."

[Election Guide 2016: Pennsylvania Senate Race]

The former presidential nominee is a top surrogate for Republican candidates nationwide, able to bring star power and credibility to events that might otherwise go unnoticed. That was again the case here Friday. Some voters said afterward that they attended only because of McCain.

It's uncommon for a candidate to spend time in another state when they face their own race back home, in an election just 46 days away.  The incumbent Republican is entering the home stretch of a competitive re-election campaign.

He faces Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in what, for now, is a second-tier Senate race but one that even Republicans worry could become a battleground if Donald Trump's presidential campaign stumbles. 

[Election Guide 2016: Arizona Senate Race]

Toomey, for his part, said he was happy to have McCain in Pennsylvania. The first-term lawmaker said McCain approached him about helping with the campaign, and the two campaigns worked out the details to make it happen.

He faces Democratic nominee Katie McGinty in one of the year's marquee Senate battlegrounds. 

"Senator McCain doesn't have a bigger fan in the United States Senate than me," Toomey said. "He's a hero to me, as he is to everybody in this room, and rightly so." 

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