Sestak, Toomey Court Moderate Votes In Senate Race

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Pat Toomey, right, speaks with supporter Robert B. Sklaroff, M.D. in Northeast Philadelphia in May. And Rep. Joe Sestak, left, in Center City Philadelphia in May. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, is right now raising campaign cash at the Union League for former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, a sure sign that the conservative knows he needs moderate voters to beat U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, his Democratic opponent in the Nov. 2 race for the U.S. Senate.

We're pretty sure Toomey will introduce Collins as "senator" and not as "comrade" at today's event.  The ultra-conservative Club For Growth dubbed Collins "comrade of the month" in February 2009 for her vote in favor of President Obama's stimulus package.  Toomey was president of the Club For Growth at the time.

Sestak tried to capitalize on all that by calling a news conference an hour before the Collins fund-raiser, where four Republicans from Delaware County who supported his run for Congress four years ago sung his praises. 

Ron Sulek said Sestak was immediately responsive when he needed support for an art center in Delaware County. Sulek called himself a moderate and said he liked how Sestak listened to his needs.  Frank Gastner, a retired manufacturer representative, echoed that, saying Sestak "had a trait that was very important to me: He listened."  By comparison, Gastner said, Toomey's economic policies would encourage manufacturers to move oversees, taking important jobs with them.

We're hoping to catch up with Toomey and Collins shortly and will update this post with what they have to say.

UPDATE, 2:25 pm:  Collins clearly isn't holding grudges about that "comrade" crack from the Club For Growth.  She focused her comments after the fund-raiser on issues that unite, not divide Republicans.  "This is a pivotal race," Collins said. "It is one of those key Senate races that is going to determine whether the Republicans are going to be able to regain control of the Senate or at least increase our numbers so that we can be an effective check on the excesses of this administration."

Toomey, also to put the past behind them, offered this: "As Republicans, there’s lots of individual items that we’re going to disagree about but there’s a broad theme on which we agree. And that’s the importance of preserving individual freedoms, individual responsibility, a free enterprise system and limited government."