LIVE & DIRECT: The Sestak/Toomey Debate

[Illustration by ALEX FINE]

We will be liveblogging the Sestak vs. Toomey debate tonight at the Constitution Center starting at 7 PM.

7:00:  A new Morning Call/Muhlenberg College Tracker poll came out late last night that has Sestak pulling ahead with a three point lead over Toomey after trailing for months. Just yesterday, the almost-always-reliable Nate Silver poured cold water on internal Dem polling that showed the race tightening. But if past elections are any indication, and of course they are, Sestak tends to rope-a-dope until the final rounds and then come out swinging. He currently enjoys a $1 million spending advantage over Toomey, a troubling late-in-the-race disparity that his buddies in The Club For Growth are worried about enough to send out a last-minute plea for contributions.

7:03: Tough to see which is the biggest liability, Sestak’s far left combover or Toomey’s jughandle ears. I vote the ears — terrorists could hide behind them.

7:05: BOOM! Sestak hits Toomey hard with the Chinese job-suck charge. Plus, he says Toomey never really was hands-on with the ‘family business’ he likes to brag about.

7:06: Moderator George Stephonuffalupagus is already proving himself to be as useless as the time he moderated the Obama/Hillary debate back in 2008. I liked him so much better when he was Clinton’s press secretary and deflected stupid questions instead of asking them. What impact is Sarah Palin having on the race in PA? Really?

7:08: Sestak mockingly calls Palin’s endorsement of Toomey as a ‘very coveted award’. Gales of laughter in the press room.

7:10: Sestak pretty much just said that if he didn’t vote for the Health Care Bill his daughter would have died of cancer. Toomey blows a prime opportunity to point out that if we don’t privatize Social Security he could lose a grandmother.

7:13: Sestak apparently has the keys to Al Gore’s Social Security lock box. I’m pretty sure that’s where Gore kept his beard while he was in politics. The one he grew back at Harvard when he was rolling doobies with his freshmen dorm roommate Tommy Lee Jones. Man, I wish Tommy Lee Jones was my roommate in college. Things would have turned out differently. I could have been in Men In Black.

7:14: “Joe’s demagoguery knows no limits…” It’s getting rough in the sandbox. Sestak responded with “Pat Toomey’s butt stinks.” Just kidding.

7:16: Toomey says he will accept a ban on abortions except in the case of rape and incest. Says Sestak is in favor of tax-payer funded abortions on demand with complimentary buffet and champagne toast.

7:17: “Palin-Toomey-O’Donnell all want to overturn Roe v. Wade,” says Sestak. Can three people run for one Senate seat? Yes, but only if one has dabbled in witchcraft.

7:21: Stephonuffalupagus weighs in with another questionable question — should people on the terrorist watch list be allowed to buy guns? is what Pennsylvania voters want to know?

7:23: Sestak says ‘Death to the terrorists’. Toomey says it would be imprudent to help the terrorists kill Americans. Thanks for asking, George.

7:26: Jimbo Gardner with the ‘to bailout or not bailout?’ question. Toomey is against the Wall Street bailout but he is pro Wall Street bonuses for those who took bailout money. Sestak says he had to vote for the bailout or his daughter would have died of cancer.

7:32: Ballsy, Sestak says he wants to shut down the F-22 program, even though parts are made in his district. That would be like Toomey saying he wants to stop Billy Joel from writing bad songs, even though the parts are made in Allentown.

7:35: Questioner just saw Waiting For Superman and wants to know what the candidates are going to do about it. Toomey is pro-choice on education, which means Sestak must be pro-life. Ironic, innit?

7:40: Jimbo Gardner wants to know if the candidates are pro- or anti-war with Iran. Sestak says the military option should stay on the table, but the back of the table. Toomey thinks the military option should ride up front. Toomey paints Sestak as pro-Hamas and anti-Israel, in a naked bid to peel off Jewish voters, a move straight out of the GOP playbook circa 2008. Oy gevalt!

7:45: The question is basically ‘are you pro-Taliban or anti-Taliban’. Both candidates appear to be solidly anti-Taliban. Boring.

7:47: Questioner wants to know what is the greatest security threat to America. Sestak says China’s economy (nice), Toomey says the greatest threat is taxes, taxes, taxes.

7:49: Sestak says Toomey “sounds just like my parrot at home” — apparently Sestak has a parrot at home that sounds just like Pat Toomey.’s a little weird.

7:52: Asked what he would change about Obama’s health care reform, Toomey says he would take out the part about killing grandparents. Sestak says he would turn Toomey’s frown upside down.

7:57: Time for closing statements. Sestak reminds us that he was an admiral in the Navy, served Clinton, and voted for the health care reform that saved his daughter’s life. Says he believes in ‘We The People’ not ‘We The Corporations.’ Says Toomey makes Attila the Hun look like a faggot (I’m paraphrasing here). Toomey says Sestak is to the left of even the extremist Democrats now in charge. Toomey is opposed to excessive and out of control government. And we’re out…Tough to say who, if anyone, won tonight. Certainly not the voters. The format seemed to ensure there was no real debate of the issues (10 seconds for a rebuttal?), just a recitation of stump speech talking points that invariably distort each other’s records and then each responds by complaining that the other distorting his record. Lincoln vs. Douglas this ain’t. There were no knockout moments, no game changers, which probably means the debate will have little impact on the internal dynamic of a race that appears to be shifting in Sestak’s favor. — JONATHAN VALANIA

UPDATE: In Pennsylvania, a new Quinnipiac University survey released this morning confirms that Democrat Joe Sestak has closed the gap with Republican Pat Toomey, showing Toomey up by a slim two-point margin (48% to 46%) that falls well within the poll’s margin of error. Quinnipiac’s last Pennsylvania survey showed Toomey leading by seven (50% to 43%). Meanwhile, last night’s tracking poll update from Muhlenberg College/Morning Call now shows the race to be dead even (43% each). The new surveys narrow Toomey’s lead on our trend estimate to just 2.2 percentage points (46.5% to 44.3%), and shifts Pennsylvania into our toss-up column. MORE

RELATED: “Pennsylvania is a blue state and Democrats there have begun to come home,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “They are more engaged than they were earlier in the race. This is not unusual, especially in off-year elections. Democrats often engage later in the campaign than do Republicans. The political environment is more favorable now for them, as evidenced by President Barack Obama’s improved, but still decidedly negative, job approval rating.” MORE

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