The Battle for America 2010: Toomey Pulling Ahead in Pennsylvania Senate Race

A drive through the Poconos, past the foreclosure notices that dot the landscape, past the seemingly endless supply of realtors attempting to market-time the end of the Great Recession by purchasing underwater mortgages at pennies on the dollar, past the ever-increasing boarded-up windows of closed stores that will never reopen, reveals the ugly truth: Pennsylvanians are not, for the moment, much interested in their own politics.

Lawns that would ordinarily sport small forests of political signs lie fallow. Bumper stickers supporting candidates of either party for any office are seldom seen. Apathy, falsely believed by the Greekless to mean “indifferent," more accurately taken as “unaffected," abounds.

Fear, caution, and ennui -- the recession has, it seems, struck the voters catatonic. From the Wal-Mart to the Burger King, political ignorance reigns. In this late season, after Obama and his minions have attempted to bludgeon democracy itself into submission, the successful candidates of either party are more likely to survive, rather than thrive. But for the moment, at least, one thing is right in Pennsylvania. In the race for what the New York Times termed the “60th Senate seat,” with all that entails for a filibuster-proof Democratic majority, the Republicans enjoy a significant advantage with two months to go before the election.

Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen show Pat Toomey, former representative from Pennsylvania’s 15th district, enjoying sizable leads over Joe Sestak, the Democratic incumbent in Pennsylvania 7, in the Pennsylvania Senate race, and even the highly partisan Quinnipiac poll can only give Sestak a tie.

Toomey has been able to position himself easily as a right-center candidate with solid credentials to appeal to the conservative base. He has kept a strong pro-life, pro-gun, anti-spending position, and has been successful, for the most part, in linking Sestak to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda. This task has been rendered less herculean by Sestak himself, who admits that he would have added another 200 billion dollars to the initial stimulus package in the form of tax credits and grants to small banks.

Sestak admits to being influenced by the work of economist Mark Zandi, and recently cited Zandi’s work in a television interview with WGAL. Unfortunately for Sestak, Zandi’s prognostications have already been undone. Not only has job growth lagged, but unemployment has once again leapt sharply, Wall Street is in the doldrums, and housing is again a disaster. Moreover, as Zandi admitted in his testimony before congress in July, there is no real mechanism for measuring the stimulus’ effectiveness in job growth or job rescue. Sestak’s support for the most radical parts of the Obama agenda, including Obama’s health care legislation, belies his occasional protests that he is not completely in step with the Obama administration. His avowed support for 2nd Amendment rights, for example, comes off as special pleading, given the weight of other exempla.

Sestak is in part undone by his long and distinguished military career. He has tried to avoid the appearance of ideology, claiming instead “pragmatism" as his justification for supporting the massive spending packages that have come from D.C. If he is not being disingenuous, he displays the weakness of the career soldier when confronted with economic realities: let the government, the military’s paymaster, come up with the money. Sestak’s comfort with command, unfortunately, makes him comfortable with a command economy. Sestak ignores the obvious: the government has only what money it takes from the wealth-generating citizenry. In short, having lived an entire life at the public trough, he can only imagine solving fiscal crises by expanding, rather than contracting, that trough.

The success of Toomey in tarring Sestak with the Pelosi brush has created desperation in the Democrat’s message. Sestak does not scruple to attack Toomey. He falsely connected Toomey to the mortgage derivatives scandal, when in fact, Toomey had supported only currency derivatives. Sestak has chastised Toomey as a Wall Street insider, when in fact, Toomey has for the last 20 or so years been either a small businessman in the Lehigh Valley, a U.S. representative, or the president of the Club For Growth. (This has been part of a common Democratic strategy to vilify Bush at the expense of logic or simple analysis of available data.)

Sestak’s most recent attack ad shows Toomey decrying corporate taxes; Sestak, like most of his Democratic brethren, seems incapable of recognizing a simple truth: Corporations do not really pay taxes at all. They either pass taxes to the consumers or move to more tax-friendly confines.