The Corner

Sestak’s Strategy

Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), who is more than six points behind Republican Pat Toomey in RealClearPolitics’s poll average, is upping his rhetoric as November approaches. In an interview with National Review Online, Sestak took care to describe Toomey as an out-of-touch tea-party leader and cast himself as a problem-solving moderate. His comments reflect the direction he’s taking in a new wave of television ads where he stands alone, sleeves rolled, and attacks Toomey’s past work as a Wall Street trader. But as Mark Halperin points out, this tack has its problems:

Toomey made a fortune as a Wall Street derivatives trader and peddled personal savings accounts as a cure for Social Security’s troubled balance sheet as the head of the conservative group the Club for Growth. Sestak and his allies have pounded away at those themes for months — only to watch the Democratic Congressman fall further and further behind in the polls . . .

Democrats bet that they could make voters forget about the short, unpopular tale of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid trinity by talking about the long, dense histories of their Republican opponents. So far, that bet has not paid off.

Speaking with NRO, Sestak tags Toomey as the “leader of the tea party’s extreme wing,” calling him “even more dangerous” than the rest of the GOP’s large field of tea-party-backed Senate candidates. “He created the atmosphere for them by purging anyone who is not extremely on the fringe.”

“You want to change Washington, don’t vote for Congressman Toomey, he’s the epitome of a typical politician,” Sestak continues. “I’ll buck my party and reach across the aisle,” he adds, pointing to a recent endorsement from former GOP senator Chuck Hagel as evidence of his bipartisan appeal. Sestak, a former Navy admiral, also points to his experience as a key factor in the race. “The Navy is not a breeding ground for partisan politics and my experience there has taught me the value of doing what it takes to solve the problem. I have stood up to my party and will reach across the aisle to find practical solutions to create jobs and get out economy moving again. This is no time for partisanship.”

That may be so, but perhaps it’s no time for Joe Sestak, either.

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