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In the Pennsylvania Senate race, Republican Pat Toomey is clearly positioning himself to run against either Arlen Specter or Joe Sestak, rather than taking any particular Democratic primary outcome for granted. But Toomey is also cleverly using Sestak against Specter.
On Friday, Toomey accepted the Sestak campaign’s invitation to participiate in a joint health care town hall meeting. “I eagerly accept Congressman Sestak’s gracious invitation, and look forward to our respective campaigns working out the logistics over the next couple of days,” Toomey said in a statement. “I’m happy to welcome Joe to the great city of Allentown and I’d extend to him an invitation to share a beer with me at one of our fine local establishments after the town hall meeting.”
Toomey continues: “While I look forward to a substantive debate about honest differences with Congressman Sestak, I wish such an exchange was possible with Arlen Specter. Unfortunately, with Senator Specter, one never knows which Arlen Specter will show up-the May 2009 version who opposed a public health care option, or the August 2009 version who ardently supports it.”
The implication is clear: Toomey is portraying Sestak as an honest liberal with whom he has philosophical and policy disagreements, in contrast with Specter the party-switching, inconsistent opportunist. It leaves Toomey open to running an ideological campaign against Sestak while making a Specter-Toomey matchup about the incumbent’s reliability and desire for power.