Here comes McGinty v. Toomey

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Katie McGinty and Pat Toomey.

GET READY for a he said/she said Senate race.

Get set for some gender politics - nationally, and doubly so in Pennsylvania.

Katie McGinty's victory in Tuesday's Democratic primary sets the stage for a pitch to make history twice: make Hillary Clinton the nation's first woman president; make McGinty the state's first woman senator.

Oh, it might not be overt; gotta walk softly when suggesting folks vote for women solely because they're women.

But it'll be coordinated (McGinty once worked for Bill Clinton), it will draw lots of outside money and, depending on who Republicans nominate for president, it could produce two winners.

It'll get national attention as a race critical to Republicans holding or Democrats grabbing control of the Senate. And it's likely to start real soon.

Don't be surprised if incumbent Republican Pat Toomey does early TV to tout himself or define McGinty as too liberal, too inexperienced or too something else to represent the state.

In fact, even with no primary opponent, Toomey's been on air this month and last; multiple ads on his efforts to fight drug addiction, save jobs, support cops and work for "common sense" gun laws.

With good reason.

Toomey's seat is rated among the five most vulnerable of 24 GOP Senate seats up this year. It's one of seven in states Barack Obama won twice. And McGinty's already tagging him as part of a GOP do-nothing mess.

Yet his reelection bid starts with mixed reviews.

A Real Clear Politics average of polling the last two months has him leading McGinty by 12 points (44-32).

But Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia Center for Politics and the Cook Political Report this month both call the race a toss-up.

It might well be.

On one hand, Pennsylvania voted Democratic in the last six presidential races. And Toomey only narrowly won his first Senate term in 2010, a non-presidential year dominated by Republicans.

On the other hand, Pennsylvania's got something of a record in splitting its vote for president and senator. In seven presidential elections since the mid-1970s in which a Senate seat also was up, the state split by party four times.

Translation: Toomey has some history on his side but faces a real challenge.

It could get tougher if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz (whom Toomey voted for Tuesday) top the November ballot. Still, in this cycle anything seems possible and betting on outcomes isn't wise.

Plus, while Toomey doesn't draw widespread adoration, neither does he draw broad visceral dislike. And state GOP Chairman Rob Gleason argues the state's Republican candidates "will not be defined by our party's presidential nominee."

We'll see, eh?

McGinty's primary win - built on big backing from her party, its leaders and outside interests - no doubt got an assist from Clinton voter-turnout efforts and likely from the ballot presence of Braddock Mayor John Fetterman. His outsider campaign probably took votes from McGinty's closest rival, former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, who also ran as a (mostly forced) outsider.

November's election will be the first here in nearly a quarter-century with a major-party female candidate challenging an incumbent senator. That was 1992: Democrat Lynn Yeakel vs. then-Republican Arlen Specter.

That, too, garnered national notice following confirmation hearings of now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at which Specter's controversial questioning of Anita Hill spawned "The Year of the Woman."

Yeakel nearly upset Specter, losing by just 2.3 percent of the vote.

McGinty's hoping her year of the woman turns out better in Pennsylvania than 1992's.

baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer