President Obama took the unusual step Saturday of criticizing Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania for the endangered incumbent’s use of the president’s image in a campaign ad.
Mr. Obama objected to the Toomey campaign’s use of video of the president praising the senator in 2013 for his support for expanded background checks on gun purchases.
“Courage is telling Pennsylvania voters where you stand on the tough issues, not just the easy ones like background checks,” Mr. Obama said in the statement released through the Senate Democrats’ campaign committee. “Pat Toomey won’t tell Pennsylvania voters where he stands on Donald Trump, trying instead to have it both ways by telling different people what he thinks they want to hear. That’s not courage.”
The president added, “Voting to shut down the government and against bills to close the terrorist gun loophole isn’t courage. And playing politics with the Supreme Court isn’t courage.”
Mr. Obama has endorsed Mr. Toomey’s opponent, Democrat Katie McGinty. Mr. Toomey is a frequent critic of the president’s policies.
Their Senate race in Pennsylvania is too close to call, and the presidential contest between Mr. Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton also is tightening in the Keystone State. Mr. Obama will hold his final rally of the election with Mrs. Clinton Monday night in Philadelphia.
On Saturday, Mr. Toomey told reporters after a campaign event in West Chester, Pennsylvania, that he was not worried that his use of Mr. Obama in a TV ad would hurt him with Pennsylvania’s Republican voters.
“President Obama stood up publicly and praised my work of reaching across the aisle and trying to get something done on an important issue, which is background checks,” Mr. Toomey said. “And of course the other side has tried to discredit and deny the work that I did. I think President Obama said it well, so we used his clip, it’s his quote, him, it’s what he said, in context.”
In the 30-second ad, Mr. Obama is speaking outside the White House in 2013 and thanks Mr. Toomey for his courage, despite the bill’s failure.
“That was not easy,” Obama said of the work by Toomey and Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat.
The effort on the background checks bill cost Mr. Toomey endorsements from gun-rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, even though Mr. Toomey voted more often than not with the NRA. That vote spurred his endorsement by two prominent gun-control activists, billionaire Michael Bloomberg and former Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
— This article is based in part on wire-service reports.
• Dave Boyer can be reached at email@example.com.
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