Pennsylvania Senate race: Inside battle between Pat Toomey and Katie McGinty

PENNSYLVANIA -- Democrats need a gain of five seats to take back the Senate – four if they win the White House, because a Vice President Tim Kaine would break any 50-50 tie.

One Republican seat the Democrats have their eye on is in Pennsylvania.

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Stumping in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey argued he is needed in the Senate to stop the agenda of a President Hillary Clinton.

“I think Pennsylvanians want an independent senator whose going to evaluate policy independently and as it pertains to Pennsylvania, and not just be a blank check for Hillary Clinton,” he said. 

Polls here show Hillary Clinton with a strong lead over Donald Trump, but Toomey is locked in a tight race against Democrat Katie McGinty.

She has seized on Toomey’s unwillingness to say if he will vote for the GOP nominee.

“I think Pat Toomey owes it to voters to answer the simple question, whether he’s voting for Donald Trump or not,” said McGinty. 

“I find this a genuine dilemma,” Toomey said. “Hillary Clinton is completely unacceptable to me, but I recognize my party’s nominated a candidate who has serious flaws.”

Toomey can’t win without his party’s base, and points to what he’d expect from a Republican President Trump.

“He’d probably sign a repeal of Obamacare, he’d probably restore sanctions on Iran, he’d probably sign tax reform,” said Toomey. “So there’s constructive things we could do.”

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Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidates Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, left, and Democrat Katie McGinty shake hands at the end of a debate at Temple University in Philadelphia, Monday, Oct. 24, 2016.  Matt Rourke, AP

But the senator also needs to convince some Clinton-voters to split the ticket. Especially women in areas like the Philadelphia suburbs. A recent Bloomberg poll showed 76 percent were bothered a lot by Trump’s crude comments on the “Access Hollywood” tape.

And statewide, McGinty is winning white, college-educated women by eight points. 

Both sides say the road to the Senate majority runs through Pennsylvania, and the dollars back that up: with $113 million spent so far, it’s already become the most expensive Senate race ever.  

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    Julianna Goldman is a CBS News correspondent based in the Washington bureau.