WASHINGTON – The different approaches of the two leading Democrats in Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race were on display hundreds of miles apart this week.
On Wednesday, Katie McGinty was invited to Washington for lunch with the Democratic senators whose ranks she hopes to join. Several of them have already endorsed her, and the Democratic Senate leader, Nevada's Harry Reid, is openly rooting for McGinty to win the three-way primary.
That night, rival Joe Sestak was in Chester County to speak to the county's Democratic committee. The county party endorsed him overwhelmingly: 154 votes for Sestak, 27 for McGinty and 26 for Braddock Mayor John Fetterman.
"Sestak has worked tirelessly in Chester County for every vote. He's at every event that we have. It's almost like he lives here. He has the grass roots backing of the party," Chester County Democratic chairman Brian McGinnis wrote in an email. "Katie could not make the convention do to a previous commitment. Katie is still an unknown to many of our voters in the county."
This came from McGinty's backyard: she lives in Wayne, though her roots are in Philadelphia.
Democratic leaders in Washington fear that Sestak is too unconventional for a high-stakes and closely scrutinized Senate race (they grimaced as he walked across Pennsylvania last year to launch his campaign). His unorthodox methods, however, have endeared him to rank-and-file Democrats (see his upset over Arlen Specter in 2010), and it paid off in Chester.
The party's top officials, meanwhile, see McGinty as the candidate with the profile, temperament -- and willingness to stick to the playbook – to give Democrats their best chance of unseating a well-funded incumbent, Republican Pat Toomey (who has reported $9.6 million on hand in his campaign fund).
McGinty, Gov. Wolf's former chief-of-staff, has won endorsements from Wolf, former Mayor Nutter, former Gov. Rendell and a slew of other county and city leaders, labor unions and the Democratic women's group EMILY's List. This week she announced backing from the DC-based League of Conservation Voters and endorsements from officials in Erie County.
Asked about Sestak's win in Chester County, she said her campaign has only been up and running for four months. (Though she formally declared her candidacy nearly six months ago, in early August).
"God bless him, Congressman Sestak has been running for six years," McGinty said, referring to Sestak's ongoing efforts since narrowly losing to Toomey in 2010. "I think we're in very, very good stead four months in."
A spokeswoman added by email, "Katie is proud of the support she is receiving from grassroots activists, organized labor and elected officials. Voters are responding to Katie because she is focused on helping middle class families get ahead because for far too long they've gotten the short end of the stick."
Fetterman, meanwhile, is running the campaign that most closely resembles that of Bernie Sanders: focused heavily on young people looking for something different in politics. He has a prominent social media presence, recently appeared on Comedy Central's The Nightly Show and has a look and style unlike any Senator. (At the ritzy Pennsylvania Society events in New York last month, he and his staff sported tuxedo t-shirts).
"Our campaign's philosophy has been and always will be 'coming soon to a hometown near you,'" Fetterman said in a statement. He campaigned this week at a Butler microbrewery, West Chester University and before the Montgomery County Democratic committee, among other events.
On policy, the trio's differences are fairly small.
On style and approach, Democratic voters have three distinct choices.