(CNN) – The heated Senate race between Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey raged in two interviews Tuesday as each candidate blamed the other for the ongoing economic downturn.
The race is locked in a dead heat. A Quinnipiac University poll of Pennsylvania voters conducted last month indicated that race was tied at 43 percent, with 12 percent undecided.
Speaking to CNN's John King, Sestak accused Toomey, a former six-term congressman, of advocating for policies that crippled the U.S. economy.
" … When I came to Congress my first year is when the recession began I was also a damage control officer. Those six months after President Bush left the White House, we lost three million jobs because of the policies he and Congressman Toomey – my opponent – had pursued."
But Toomey argued that tax cuts drive the economy.
"Here's the problem liberal Democrats like my opponent Joe Sestak don't understand – that when you cut taxes you can generate strong economic growth and when you raise them you can really damage economic prospects," Toomey said.
"If we raise taxes now as Joe Sestak advocates – and frankly he's already voted for a number of tax increases – if we have another big one now I'm concerned that it could have a really devastating impact on an already very weak economy."
Toomey was referring to the Bush tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire in January. Democrats want to let the cuts lapse for the top 2 percent of income earners – individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families making more than $250,000.
Republicans call it a tax hike; Democrats say the country cannot afford the cuts and argue that the tax cuts contributed to the sharp economic downturn that began near the end of Bush's second term.
Toomey also said he found it "amusing" that former President Bill Clinton was in Pennsylvania Tuesday to campaign for Sestak.
"I have to say I think it's kind of amusing that Joe Sestak doesn't want to be associated with President Obama and Nancy Pelosi – the people whose agenda he's actually voting for and he wants to hearken back to Bill Clinton, who by the way the big accomplishment under the Clinton administration came when Republicans were in control of Congress," Toomey said.
"So if Joe is a big fan of those policies I think the obvious solution is to elect Pat Toomey and other Republicans to congress so that President Obama can have a Republican congress to work with," Toomey added.
Sestak said it was Clinton's economic policies that paved the way for a bustling economy in the late '90s and early 2000s.
"At the end of the day, Pennsylvanians have a lot of common sense and why President Clinton is surely reminding them about a way to approach an economy which created 22 million jobs, and this president today has actually helped caulk the holes of the damage that Congressman Toomey did as he voted for George Bush."
Rep. Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey will stop by JKUSA ... It’s the hottest senate race in the country – hear from both candidates only on JKUSA ... Also find out what 2012er thinks he’s like a 4 year old?
Editor's note: Occasionally we will ask influential politicos to send us their top three bullet points that are driving the day's conversation in and outside Washington.
The Dewey Square Group Principal Maria T. Cardona:
- GOP leader Mike Pence concedes over the weekend that his party lacks credibility on the economy, the deficit, and spending discipline. Thank you Mike Pence!
- Dems will fight this week yet again for working families, as the passage of a funding bill (fully paid for) for teachers and Medicaid for the states is looming. And what are Republicans fighting for? To retain the Bush tax cuts for the rich, WITHOUT paying for them.
- GOP Runoff between Handel and Deal is proxy war between Palin/Romney and Huckabee/Gingrich. And THE primary to watch in two weeks, AZ Dem candidate (and lone Latino running for Senate) Randy Parraz in a dead heat against formerly presumed front-runner Rodney Glassman. Parraz has the message, momentum, support from Latinos, GLBT community and many independents. Stay tuned!
RedState.Com Editor Erick-Woods Erickson:
- South Carolina received a letter from the Department of Justice that separating HIV infected patients from others may be discrimination. Um . . . they are prisoners.
- Harry Reid has apparently finally read the Democrats' health care legislation. Guess what! He is now "very concerned" about parts of it.
- From the U.K.'s Independent back in 1994: "Mr. Clinton used his weekly radio address to exhort Americans not to listen to the "easy promises" of Republicans, which would bring back the "failed policies" the country had sampled under Ronald Reagan and George Bush." Sounds just like Obama now and was not an effective strategy in 1994.
Alicia Keys, "Karma"
Commodores, "Brick House"
Tom Petty, "Refugee"
Van Halen, "Unchained"