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Pa. Senate candidates pull out all the stops

Pennsylvania voters who figure they've heard it all in the raucous U.S. Senate fight should brace for a final earful.
Joe Sestak
Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate, Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., greets supporters during a campaign stop at the West Main Diner in Lansdale, Pa., on Wednesday.Matt Rourke / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Pennsylvania voters who figure they've heard it all in the raucous U.S. Senate fight should brace for a final earful.

It's time for closing arguments as the tight race between Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey heads into the final days, and they're bringing in the biggest names in the business to gin up voter excitement and help them win over the shrinking pool of undecided voters in this swing state.

Their showdown is among a handful of close contests that could be pivotal to Democratic chances of keeping control of the Senate.

Republican governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Haley Barbour of Mississippi will flank Toomey at an event Friday. He will fly around the state Monday to chase last-minute votes with GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett.

He's also relying on several radio station interviews each day to help get his message out.

Sestak hopes to build strong turnout in heavily Democratic Philadelphia that could propel him to victory.

Democrats are making a final push to appeal to students and black voters who helped give President Barack Obama a double-digit win here in 2008.

Former President Bill Clinton is rallying college students in the Philadelphia area on Thursday. President Obama will swoop in Saturday for a voter canvass kickoff at Temple University in Philadelphia. Michelle Obama arrives Monday.

Sestak and Toomey are battling to succeed a fixture of Pennsylvania politics, five-term Sen. Arlen Specter, whom Sestak surprised in the May primary.

'I just need to keep working hard'
Voters can expect more din from a final burst of television attack ads. Outside groups on both sides are flooding the airwaves. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched a new TV ad Wednesday accusing Toomey of favoring tax breaks that sent Pennsylvania jobs overseas.

With most polls showing a tight race, both candidates are well aware that the smallest of factors — a verbal gaffe, sluggish turnout in key counties or some other last-minute surprise — could decide one of the nation's marquee contests.

A Franklin & Marshall College poll released Wednesday showed about a fifth of voters were undecided.

Pat Toomey
Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey, right, speaks with an unidentified woman during a campaign stop at Penn's Table Restaurant in West Chester, Pa., Monday, Oct. 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)Matt Rourke / AP

Sestak worries about not being able to greet every voter he sees as the race closes.

"You just don't want to look back and wonder, 'Was there one more voter there I missed?" he said while campaigning outside a downtown Philadelphia subway station Tuesday morning. "You don't want to feel you missed a chance to make a difference here."

The lean former Navy admiral, known for eating just a single meal during his long days on the campaign trail, said he won't be changing his dining habits as the race closes.

"If I ate now, it'd just slow me down," he said.

Sestak said he devoured two Lean Cuisine dinners when he got home late Monday after a long day of campaigning. He said he didn't fall asleep until nearly 2 a.m. and was awake at 4:30 a.m. so he could greet early-morning commuters.

Toomey has kept up an energetic pace, as well.

"I just need to keep working hard," he told reporters after a speech at the York Rotary Club in York, Pa. on Wednesday. "We've been working hard for almost 19 months now. We're doing very well. I think we're ahead. I think we're going to stay ahead; I think we're going to win this race."

Accusations of extremism
Both men are hammering away at each other for being partisan extremists, driving home the same messages they've been pushing for months.

Toomey's pitch is more jobs and less government. Sestak talks about cleaning up the economic mess he says Toomey and his GOP allies have made. Toomey says Sestak is too liberal for centrist Pennsylvania. Sestak says Toomey aligns himself with far-right conservatives like Sarah Palin.

Getting supporters to the polls on Tuesday is paramount.

The Toomey campaign is knocking on about 20,000 or more doors per week and calling roughly 36,000 households per day, campaign manager Mark Harris said.

Sestak said that since July he's had 25 campaign offices open and workers averaging 27,000 phone calls to voters each night. Sestak said he's focusing on moderate voters of all stripes and following up the phone calls with door-to-door volunteer visits and brochures. Organized labor is flexing its muscle in the state with a big push for Sestak and other Democrats.

Democrats are seen as having a superior get-out-the-vote organization in Pennsylvania, but the party's operation was not strong enough to carry Specter to victory in the party primary this year.