Toomey the centrist?

Over the weekend, The Philadelphia Inquirer took a lengthy look at Pennsylvania Senate candidate and former Rep. Pat Toomey's (R) outreach to centrist Republicans.

Toomey faces Rep. Joe Sestak (D) in the fall. Sestak ran to the left of Sen. Arlen Specter (D) when he defeated him in a May primary.

Toomey has a fundraiser planned with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and has a former Specter hand connecting him with GOP centrists in D.C.

From the Inquirer:

When he was president of the free-market advocacy group Club for Growth, Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey was the most fearsome RINO hunter in the land. He sought the defeat of GOP incumbents deemed soft on the Club's drive for lower taxes and smaller government - often termed Republicans in Name Only by the right.

Now, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine - lampooned as "Comrade of the Month" by the Club in 2009 for her pro-stimulus vote--is coming to Philadelphia to raise money for the staunchly conservative Toomey, a sign that his campaign's effort to court moderates is paying dividends.

Collins will headline a $1,000-a-plate luncheon for Toomey's Pennsylvania Senate campaign Aug. 2 at the Union League.

"Pat Toomey gets the fact that he needs to work with a lot of folks, that there doesn't need to be unanimity on all issues in the party," said Washington lobbyist David Urban, an influential GOP moderate and a host of the event.

Urban was Sen. Arlen Specter's chief of staff from 1997 to 2002, when the outgoing Pennsylvania senator was still a Republican. He stayed loyal when Specter became a Democrat last year, and he returned to the GOP fold after Specter lost the May 18 primary to Rep. Joe Sestak.

Urban is helping to connect Toomey with moderate Republicans in the capital and from the Specter camp. He calls Toomey "more of a fiscal conservative than a social conservative."

Meanwhile, a new Rasmussen poll out Monday gives Toomey a 45 percent-to-38 percent lead over Sestak.

Despite any attempt to move to the middle, Democrats note that Toomey's record in Congress was anything but centrist on social issues or just about anything else, and they plan to hit him on that record through the fall.

Toomey's camp is betting that the focus on government spending and deficits makes Pennsylvania's more Democratic electorate less of a climb for the Republican in November.