Oh, that nasty Pa. Senate race!

giordano
Democratic Senate candidate Katie McGinty and incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

HOW ARE YOU enjoying the Pat Toomey v. Katie McGinty Senate race thus far?

Not into it? Really? Not following the back-and-forth pies in the face?

Come on. It's American politics in action.

If you have a TV or just passing interest, you know Republican Toomey's a right-wing Wall Street and NRA toady while Democrat McGinty's an elitist liberal who thinks lots of Pennsylvanians are stupid.

Nice choice, eh? Reminiscent of the top of the ticket?

But Toomey's no Trump; agree with him or not, he actually knows stuff and, unlike The Donald, runs a good campaign.

McGinty's not unlike Clinton: hand-picked by party leaders, well-positioned to win not so much because she's a great candidate but because Trump's on the ballot.

The Senate race is a virtual tie.

And with high stakes - it could decide Senate control - money pours in, attacks are constant (over taxes, trade, guns, et al) and, as in war, truth is a casualty.

Just a couple examples.

Perhaps Toomey's strongest appeal to moderates and independents, a good chunk of whom he needs to win, is his bipartisan efforts on gun background checks, rare in the GOP.

As a result, he's supported by gun-safety advocates former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, and Gabby Giffords, a former Arizona Democratic congresswoman shot in 2011.

McGinty backs broader gun-control laws than Toomey and is supported by the gun-control group CeaseFire PA.

It's an issue McGinty fights to own.

So a pro-McGinty TV ad slams Toomey as an NRA goon. It shows him at a campaign stop near the Ohio border. A narrator says, "Listen to Pat Toomey brag" just before Toomey declares, "I have had a perfect record with the NRA."

But what the ad doesn't show is Toomey kept talking. And, as recorded by the New Castle News, this is what he said next: "I am a gun owner, and I take my son shooting. And having said all that, I do not think that background checks are a contradiction. I don't think background checks infringe on our Second Amendment rights."

Not exactly a "brag" about the NRA.

A candidate's words often are the strongest weapon against them, especially when the words are cherry-picked.

But how about when the words never were spoken?

Toomey's camp keeps insisting McGinty denigrated voters some months back by telling the Jewish Exponent, a Philly-based weekly, that people in central and northern counties are basically goobers with suspect mental capacity.

Toomey statements (including three last week) quote McGinty telling the Exponent she "found an alarming undercurrent of misinformed people in the 'T' part of the state." And that's why she won't debate anywhere but in big cities.

Devastating, right? An elitist snub of the "misinformed" millions outside Philly and Pittsburgh.

Except she never said it. Exponent editor Josh Runyan tells me a statement he issued after the article appeared is accurate. The statement said a review of an Exponent reporter's notes and recording could not justify what was attributed to McGinty "even in paraphrase."

Ah, but such is the nature of politics, especially in the din of a presidential race chock-full of fact-bending, in an era of polarization where too many are willing to believe the worst about those whose ideology doesn't mirror their own.

Campaigns and our social media culture encourage us not to trust OR verify, while simultaneously selling tainted versions of truth.

So expect, for example, to hear how Toomey opposes gun safety, how McGinty thinks Pennsylvanians are dense.

Just take it all with a grain - maybe a pillar - of salt.

baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer