WASHINGTON - About this time in 2010, Republican Pat Toomey ran a TV ad with a simple tagline: "More jobs, less government, Pat Toomey."

A former derivatives trader who had started a small restaurant chain and led the free-market, antitax group the Club for Growth, Toomey campaigned for Senate as a fiscal hawk who would cut spending and federal debt.

When he won, the Pennsylvanian landed seats on the Senate finance, budget, and banking committees, and made a splash on the so-called "super committee" tasked with cutting the deficit.

But as he runs for reelection this year, Toomey has tucked away his calculator.

Instead, he's flexing his muscles.

In his early ads and campaign appearances, Toomey has cast himself as Pennsylvanians' protector.

For months he has devoted speeches, media events, op-eds, and precious TV time to warnings about Iranian-backed terrorism, pedophiles in schools, and police under attack. He has touted bills to expand background checks for gun purchases and combat the opioid addiction crisis.

"The vast majority of Pennsylvanians, the people that I represent, they want me to be a steward that's looking after their safety," Toomey said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

He spoke in front of a photo of Kate Steinle, killed last year by an undocumented immigrant released from police custody because of San Francisco's "sanctuary city" policy - one in which the city refused to hold most illegal immigrants for deportation proceedings.

Toomey has fixated on that topic for the last two weeks, accusing his Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty, of supporting Philadelphia's sanctuary city policy. He held news conferences in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, released public letters, and ran radio ads before trying to force a Senate vote on the issue.

"He's very astutely figured out who he needs to be talking to," said Ross Baker, a Rutgers University professor who studies the Senate. "Clearly the Club for Growth stuff won't go over this time - there's just too much discontent, and that's just too much Wall Street and big business."

While Toomey ran amid a conservative midterm wave in 2010, this year's presidential race is expected to bring out a more Democratic electorate - one in which he'll need support from moderates and swing voters in what is widely expected to be among the Senate's most difficult reelection fights.

In a recent interview, Toomey said he's still fighting spending and Washington policies that stunt economic growth and job creation, but is pairing that with a message on safety.

Campaign aides argue that his focus on Iran, policing, and opioids simply matches the issues of the day. The senator, however, has also worked to keep a spotlight on those topics and others, such as detecting and preventing child sex abuse.

Operatives in both parties see it as an attempt to round out his profile, making him stronger and softer at the same time.

"Public safety is an issue that unfolds a larger umbrella to voters," said Republican consultant Christopher Nicholas.

Law and order plays well with blue-collar Democrats outside big cities, he said, while talking national defense strengthens Toomey's standing compared with McGinty, a former chief of staff and cabinet officer under two governors, who has never held elected office.

Sanctuary cities, Nicholas pointed out, are "a less explosive and less divisive way to talk about immigration."

Meanwhile, focusing on safety and schools - rather than budgets and taxes - could help with suburban swing voters, particularly women, in a year when McGinty is trying to become Pennsylvania's first female senator and Hillary Clinton will likely top the Democratic ticket.

Most of Toomey's early TV ads featured women talking about how the senator has championed safety.

They are also a potential weakness for him: A Quinnipiac University poll this month showed women voters favoring McGinty by 51 percent to 38 percent.

Men backed Toomey by 53-36.

Mark Nevins, a Democratic consultant, saw the safety focus as a way to turn the debate toward local issues, and not "get sucked into the national debate on Donald Trump."

The McGinty campaign said Toomey's shift won't distract voters from his ties to Wall Street.

Democrats have years of Toomey's statements backing pro-business (he says "pro-growth") positions, and his votes against broad spending bills that included money for some of the causes he now says he supports.

"Toomey is trying desperately to backpedal from his shameful record," McGinty spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said.

Toomey's continued commitment to tight budgeting has also opened him up to new attacks. Democrats have pounced on votes in recent weeks against spending to combat opioid addiction and the Zika virus.

While other vulnerable Senate Republicans, such as Ohio's Rob Portman and New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte, voted for both items, Toomey argued that new spending should be matched with budget cuts elsewhere.

He eventually voted Thursday for a broader bill that included the $1.1 billion for Zika prevention -- but only after first trying to block the funding and supporting a GOP plan to provide the money by slashing the same amount from funding for the Affordable Care Act.

As the debate unfolded, however, Toomey did not speak out on the topic. Instead, he pressed an amendment that would strip federal money from sanctuary cities, warning that "dangerous criminals are being released onto our streets."

Democrats blocked his plan from coming to a vote, but Toomey wasn't done on the issue. Fifteen minutes later, his campaign fired out a news release touting his stand, and attacking McGinty.

@JonathanTamari