Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Pat Toomey Talks Polls, Messaging, Sestak

In Pennsylvania, it’s another day and another poll with Pat Toomey leading his Democrat opponent Joe Sestak. This latest poll, from PoliticsPA/Municipoll, has Toomey up 45-36 percent, consistent with Real Clear Politics 9-point average.

So what has buoyed Toomey so consistently against Sestak in Pennsylvania, a moderate state that has been flirting with permanent blue status, and hasn’t voted for a Republican president since before its youngest voters were born?

To answer this question, Battle ‘10 caught up with Toomey on the campaign trail.

The would-be senator — previously described as “too conservative” by, of all prognosticators, Rick Santorum — attributed his commanding lead to “growing enthusiasm and energy” from a disaffected electorate.

“I really try not to put too much stock in polls with six weeks to go,” cautioned Toomey. “The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.”

“For the most part, Joe Sestak has been bringing in out-of-state endorsements,” said Toomey. “Meanwhile, I’ve received the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, and gotten the support of health care workers across Pennsylvania.”

“That support is much more meaningful than from an out-of-state politician,” explained Toomey. “An FOP endorsement actually represents 41,000 Pennsylvanians and their families.”

Joe Sestak has welcomed a host of national figures to the campaign trail and fundraising circuit in recent weeks, including former President Bill Clinton — twice — as well as Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Chuck Hagel, and, most recently, President Obama.

The president, who held a donor-only fundraiser for Sestak where access went for as low as $250, is held in poor regard by many in the Keystone State. Public Policy Polling last month had Obama regarded favorably by only 40 percent of Pennsylvanians, with 55 percent seeing him unfavorably.

But while both candidates have sent salvos at each other on the airwaves, they have not yet debated face-to-face. In fact, no date is even set for a first debate.

Toomey, without elaborating, told Battle ‘10 that the “campaigns are in discussion now, [and] we’ll see where they lead to.”

Toomey’s message has been consistently focused on the nuts and bolts issue of job creation and economic growth, a message he reiterated in conversation with Battle ‘10.

“I think we need to stick to our message of getting the federal government under control, of bringing spending under control, and of creating jobs for Pennsylvanians,” emphasized Toomey.

“The DSCC has spent millions attacking me with dishonest ads, but I think voters can see through that and want to know what I’m going to do to generate economic growth, and I know how to do that.”

Toomey was an owner of a family restaurant in Allentown in the 1990s before serving for six years in Congress and voluntarily term-limiting himself out of office.

He most recently served as president of the Club for Growth, where he advocated pro-market policies and served as a free-market kingmaker for favored politicians. Now, the Club is returning the favor in the form of a multi-million dollar ad buy across the state.

Asked about Joe Sestak’s about-face on tax relief, first reported here at Battle ‘10, Toomey said he “didn’t know how to explain the switch” but emphasized that Sestak has “taken a very liberal position on tax policy” and “voted for huge tax increases already.”

Toomey referenced Sestak’s positions on Cap and Trade and health care reform taxes as two examples. “Joe has been engaging in class warfare and advocating tax increases for a long time,” said Toomey.

In an interview with Fox Business Network last December, Sestak cautioned, “If you, even on the rich, all of a sudden, if we’re not out of this recession, begin to raise taxes in 2011, then you can have a … hindrance to our recovery.” Now he appears to be walking back that rhetoric, in line with President Obama’s desire to see tax cuts expire on those making over $250,000 per year.

As Pennsylvania and the nation struggle toward economic recovery, conditions seem particularly favorable for Toomey, the ardent free-marketer, to make a winning argument to citizens of the Keystone State that he is, indeed, the man for this moment.

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