Did Pennsylvania Senate Race Just Become a Toss-Up?

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Democrat Joe Sestak is gradually narrowing his gap in his Pennsylvania Senate race against Republican Pat Toomey. Sestak, a congressman, defeated incumbent Senator Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary. Toomey, a former congressman, currently leads the polls by about 3.5 percent. Here's what observers have to say about this race, which has shown Toomey in a solid lead for about a year. The two candidates will face off in a live debate tonight.

  • Toomey's Poll Drop a 'Wake-Up Call'  The Weekly Standard's John McCormack warns, "After some initial skepticism at a PPP poll that showed Democrat Joe Sestak one point ahead of Republican Pat Toomey in the Pennsylvania Senate race (46% to 45%), another poll by Muhlenberg showed Sestak up three, 44% to 41%. That was enough to wake up conservatives." He urges "keeping an eye on Pennsylvania."
  • Reasons for Skepticism  The New York Times' Nate Silver cautions that there has not been much polling in Pennsylvania and that such a swift reversal would be very unusual. "The most prudent conclusion is that Mr. Toomey still holds a lead, but it is probably smaller than the one he held before. Still, even small leads can be meaningful at this time of year, and Mr. Sestak may not be helped by the fact that Democrats are performing poorly in the governor’s race in Pennsylvania as well as several competitive House races around the state."
  • Can Dem Spending Eclipse Obama's Unpopularity?  The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes, "Amid an onslaught of spending by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- $4.7 million in independent expenditures to date -- Rep. Joe Sestak (D) has climbed back into a statistical dead heat. ... The question is whether he can turn out enough Democratic base voters to offset the large margins by which Toomey will almost certainly win the central portion of the state where President Obama and the national Democratic party are persona non grata."
  • Tea Party Must Focus Here, Not Delaware  Conservative blogger Fred Bauer advises, "The [Tea Party] grassroots right may find it more helpful to turn its attention away from certain long-shot Senate races and focus more on close Senate races like this one (or the ones in Nevada or Kentucky). At a certain point, elections aren't about sending a message or coming close: they're about winning. This is a race the GOP can win, but it has to keep its eye on the ball." Presumably, Bauer is referencing such high-profile races as Christine O'Donnell's unlikely bid in neighboring Delaware.
  • Is the Democratic Base 'Waking Up'?  Hotline's Jennifer Duffy writes, "There is evidence that the Democratic base is starting to wake up and focus on the mid-term election, which helps candidates like Sestak running in blue states and accounts for some of the closure. But, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee might deserve much of the credit for Sestak's progress. Since August, the DSCC has spent nearly $4.2 million on Sestak's behalf, almost all of it on television ads attacking Toomey. Other groups sympathetic to Sestak have spent another $600,000 for a total of $4.8 million."
  • This Just Became a National Race  Talking Points Memo's Evan McMorris-Santoro writes, "The poll creates an interesting dynamic for tonight's live debate between Sestak and Toomey. Where national observers had all but written off the race for Sestak, now virtually everyone is chattering about the potential for a Democratic surprise in the Keystone State."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.