Does McGinty's misstep rear-end her campaign?

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Katie McGinty’s (left) choice of words to describe her Republican opponent, Sen. Pat Toomey (right), recalls an incident in another statewide race, 26 years ago, involving Barbara Hafer and Gov. Bob Casey.

Katie McGinty no doubt was hoping for positive attention and a campaign bounce coming out of her party's national convention right in her old hometown.

She is, after all, positioned to possibly become the state's first woman U.S. senator in a year her party aims to elect the nation's first woman president.

A "make history twice" tag makes for nice marketing.

And McGinty has a coveted speaking slot in Thursday's lineup before Hillary Clinton accepts the nomination.

Ah, but there's a downside due to her reference to a backside.

McGinty, as she is wont to do, got a tad too enthusiastic in front of a friendly audience, in this instance, labor folks at a convention-related event Monday.

She evidently thought this was a good time to call her opponent, Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey, "an a--hole."

She said it with a smile instead of in anger, almost a good-natured jab. She was, according to reporting in the Inquirer, playing off comments made by labor leader Chris Shelton, of the Communications Workers of America, who used the same sobriquet to describe Donald Trump.

And McGinty apologized almost at once.

Still, this crack was a misstep. And an especially hard clunker given its timing.

It flies in the face of a Democratic convention theme: We are different from and better than those rude, crude, name-calling, juvenile Republicans, especially Trump; we are the party of serious civility.

And there's more.

It also hearkens back to a 1990 Pennsylvania statewide political race where name-calling made big news.

That was the year Auditor General Barbara Hafer (who, in keeping with Pennsylvania tradition, recently was indicted) ran to become the state's first woman governor.

Apparently Pennsylvania women running for firsts are prone to verbal faux pas.

Anyway, Hafer, a Republican favoring abortion rights, was a long shot against popular incumbent Gov. Bob Casey, an avowed abortion opponent. And in seeking to draw a stark contrast with him she tagged him "a red-necked Irishman."

She drew wide criticism for an ethnic slur.

She then won just one of 67 counties (Montgomery) while losing to Casey by 35 points as Casey won a second term. Casey died in 2000.

Tuesday, I caught up with his son, Sen. Bob Casey, and asked if the McGinty miscue reminded him of anything.

He pulled a thoughtful face but said nothing.

I offered, "You know what it reminds you of."

A light went off. "Oh!" he said. "I didn't think of that."

But he declined further comment.

Less touchy but maybe more partisan and loyal to McGinty was state Democratic Party chief Marcel Groen. When I asked him about McGinty's comment, Groen, an attorney, said, "Truth is an absolute defense."

It's hard to say whether McGinty's anatomical assessment of Toomey rear-ends her campaign, though it's not hard to say if the situation were reversed there'd be wild outrage in editorials and among many women's groups.

In a year marked by insults such as "jerk" or "fraud," "con man" or "choke artist," and comments demeaning to the disabled and various ethnic groups, I guess it makes the list.

But historically, not so much.

Stephen Douglas called Abe Lincoln "hatchet face." Andrew Jackson regretted that "I didn't shoot Henry Clay."

So we'll see. The political world is certainly different than it was in Lincoln's or Jackson's days, and different than it was in 1990.

The Toomey/McGinty race, just like the Clinton/Trump race, is tight and competitive - no ifs, ands, or butts.

baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer