Similarities superficial in Pa. Senate contest

August 31, 2010

By Seth McLaughlin-The Washington Times

DuBOIS, Pa. | They’re both Catholic, middle-aged, Harvard-educated white men – but the similarities end there between the two candidates running for Arlen Specter‘s U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania.

Former Rep. Patrick J. Toomey is a conservative Republican and one-time Wall Street derivatives trader who chased Mr. Specter from the GOP. On the stump, he’s politically polished and has a knack for sticking to the script.

He’s taking on Rep. Joe Sestak, a liberal Democrat and retired three-star Navy admiral who ended Mr. Specter‘s political career by defeating him in a hard-fought primary. On the stump, Mr. Sestak can throw out so many stats, personal stories and ideas that it he can leave a person’s head spinning.

Despite their glaring differences, the path to victory for both men hinges in large part on the same voters: undecided independents.

“Democrats have an enormous registrant advantage that benefits them at the polls, but there is a great fear in terms of turnout among the state’s Democratic rank and file. So for Democrats to win, there is a need to tap into the independent or independent-minded voters,” said Christopher Borick, an associate professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

“The same thing goes for Republicans. The Republican-energized base on its own might not be enough to pull off statewide races. So what needs to happen is they have to have that crossover appeal to those middle-of-the-road voters,” he said.

Mr. Toomey and Mr. Sestak have consolidated their political bases and are fighting over the unaffiliated voters and moderate-minded members of their parties.

But one recent poll that found that 25 percent of likely Pennsylvania voters are undecided.

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