Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 21, 2010

THE NEXT SENATOR FROM PENNSYLVANIA?.... Before his humiliating defeat in 2006, Rick Santorum (R) was elected to the Senate in Pennsylvania -- twice. With that in mind, it's hardly inconceivable that former Rep. Pat Toomey, the Republican Senate nominee this year, can get elected.

But just how far to the right is Toomey? Harry Enton published an item recently that evaluated the former lawmaker's ideology, using the independent DW-Nominate scores, which score members of Congress based on their roll-call votes.

Enton found that Toomey is much more conservative than even Santorum.

Using joint House and Senate scaling (which treat the House and Senate a single body to compare scores across chambers), we find that Pat Toomey (.718) had a considerably more conservative voting record than Rick Santorum (.349). To put that number into context, Lincoln Chafee (the ultimate liberal Republican and now independent) had a DW-Nominate score of .002 and Republican Arlen Specter had a score of .067. Republican Specter was slightly to the right of Chafee; Santorum was considerably right of Chafee; and, Toomey was much further right.

Still, I wanted to get a better idea of how conservative Toomey voting record was. So, I pulled the DW-Nominate score of every United States legislator (House and Senate) since 1995.... Toomey ranked more conservative than 97.9% of all United States legislators since 1995. He had a more conservative voting record than J.D Hayworth, Jim DeMint, and was about as conservative as Jesse Helms. Only Tom Coburn and Tom Tancredo scored further to the right.

To put it into prospective, Pat Toomey would most likely be the second most conservative Republican in the United States Senate.

That doesn't mean it's impossible, of course, but given that Barack Obama won by double digits in Pennsylvania just two years ago, it'll be tough for Toomey to convince voters in the Keystone State that his very conservative background is in line with the state's mainstream.

Can "Pennsylvania's Jesse Helms" win? Toomey starts off as something of an underdog, and will have to hope voters don't pay too close attention to his beliefs and/or policy agenda.

Steve Benen 1:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Enton found that Toomey is much more conservative than even Santorum

Paging Dan Savage...;>

Posted by: martin on May 21, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

For once I'm hopeful that sanity will overcome the Republican BS machine. These folks figured out that Santorum was "not really their cup of tea", and I'm betting on that continuing.

Posted by: Mark-NC on May 21, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

My only concern is that Rand Paul will suck up all the media attention as the craziest candidate and make Toomey look reasonable by comparison.
But I still feel pretty confident about Sestak, I just think he needs to learn to be a little quicker on his feet so that he can hold his own in a debate.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 21, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

To put it into prospective, Pat Toomey would most likely be the second most conservative Republican in the United States Senate.

Well, if Toomey is that conservative, that can only mean one thing: there's a really good sex scandal waiting in the wings!

Posted by: electrolite on May 21, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Toomey's secret weapon is Joe Sestak. I was listening to NPR's All Things Considered on Wednesday and heard him interviewed. His bloviating style emitted no light and offered no insights. It was stunningly banal and dull. Each question was answered with puffs of ad-copy verbiage signifying absolutely nothing. If this is the best Sestak can do, I'd wager Toomey is a cinch to win.

Posted by: walt on May 21, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Do not underestimate the regressiveness of the rural Pennsylvanian voter. It wouldn't surprise me if Toomey gets elected because his attitudes are shared to some extent by lots of upstate voters. If you spend any time at a place like say, Indiana, PA, an hour or so northeast of Pittsburgh, you'll find out why PA had some of the most active KKK clans in the north.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on May 21, 2010 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

"PA had some of the most active KKK clans in the north."- Texas Aggie

HAD? Visit Berks County, between Phila and Harrisburg. . . ( we're equal opportunity: we also have Skinheads and the Amish)

Posted by: DAY on May 21, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

I'm well aware of the views of some rural Pa. voters, but I'd say that most statewide elections since 1990 or 1992 have proven that it's the major cites and suburbs that control the outcome.
Santorum is the only exception, but he swept in with the class of '94 and practically ran unopposed in 2000, then was easily defeated by Casey.
Sestak may have to polish his message some more and provide more policy details, but once Toomey's real beliefs are exposed to the light of day, I'll put my money on Sestak.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 21, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Toomey is a creature of Wall Street and the Club for Growth. Sestak plans to make this an issue. Plus refer to the "accountability lessons" he learned in 30 years in the Navy. (My bet is that Toomey is a chickenhawk, like Cheney, but I could be wrong on this.) Toomey is conservative/libertarian. Is he also a social conservative? That's what gets Western PA, and it may be that neither candidate is, really. If it goes back to pocketbook issues, Sestak wins. Santorum won in more prosperous times, and then imploded in sanctimony and hypocrisy in 2006.

Posted by: Mimikatz on May 21, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Toomey will lose by at least 8 points.

The Republicans will likely pick up some senate seats, but this won't be one of them.

Posted by: Rip on May 21, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I heard Sestak on Countdown and I have to admit that he isn't the best interview, but I think the Admiral has a few things going for him. First, he is a really hard worker who doesn't take anything for granted. Second, like most general officers he is very organized. Third, he seems to learn and learn quickly. He is focused on small business and job growth. He seems to want to make the race local, not national. Toomey wants to make the race a national race. Finally, I think he has a pretty good team. He finished off Specter with a well timed hit between the eyes.

walt, don't count Sestak out.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 21, 2010 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

I had wondered about Sestak's political skills until I saw the "Arlen Specter switched parties to save one job... his, not yours" ad.

PA-12 voters, including the Indiana, PA town Texas Aggie mentions, are social conservatives but will vote for candidates like Bob Casey who also are progressive on economics. Mark Critz seemed to fit the bill on Tuesday. Military backgrounds are a plus in this area (Western PA), I doubt Toomey can beat Sestak on that score.

Posted by: KevinMc on May 21, 2010 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

it'll be tough...to convince voters...that his very conservative background is in line with the state's mainstream.

See McDonald, Bob; Virginia 2009.

Posted by: Vicente Fox on May 21, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Do not underestimate the regressiveness of the rural Pennsylvanian voter. It wouldn't surprise me if Toomey gets elected because his attitudes are shared to some extent by lots of upstate voters.

Exactly. James Carville once described Pennsylania as "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between." Unfortunately, this is not too far off the mark.

The extreme right wing have made up the majority of Pennsylvania's Republican voters since 1994 (the year Rick Santorum was elected to the Senate). Pat Toomey ran against Arlen Specter in the 2004 primaries and--despite the fact that he had the backing of the GOP machine and that people like George W. Bush and Rick Santorum campaigned for him--Specter just barely survived, winning by less than 20,000 votes out of more than a million cast.

In order for Joe Sestak to win in November, the Dems need a strong GOTV effort in the urban areas to counter the wave of wingnuts who will be voting for Pat Toomey.

Posted by: "Fair and Balanced" Dave on May 21, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Toomey has been attending fundraisers with the Wall street lobbyists and other lobbyists promising to advance the corporate agenda and stop the populist agenda.

Posted by: jJS on May 21, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

As a Philly resident who voted for Sestak, I'd like to remind non-Pennsylvanians that out-of-state folks always seem to be fascinated by the rural Pennsylvanians and forget the size of Philly, the Philly suburbs, Pittsburgh, and other cities.

Chances are very good that if the Sestak campaign generates enough enthusiasm, these areas will overwhelm the rural Goopers, as happened with Obama in 2008.

And no, I can't explain Santorum getting elected twice. I think I can explain Specter's getting elected a zillion times, but it's too depressing a story.

Posted by: JonJ on May 22, 2010 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK
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